Sweepstakes and Lotteries

What you need to know

Sweepstakes and lottery scams are among the most prevalent across the country. Scammers notify potential victims of substantial winnings in the form of cash or prizes. Scammers may pretend to represent a well-known organization, such as Publishers Clearing House, or give a false organization name. Scammers will report that an individual must first pay a fee to collect his or her winnings, usually to cover "taxes" or a "delivery fee." This is the major red flag associated with these scams. Under federal law, an individual would never be required to pay any amount up front, for any reason, to collect legitimate winnings.

Scammers may instruct you to make payment via gift cards, reloadable credit card, wire transfer, or through payment apps on your computer or phone. In some cases, scammers will mail you a fake check to supposedly cover these costs. Victims in these cases are instructed to deposit the check and then wire transfer a portion of the funds back to the scammer. These scammers are hoping you will send them payment before the check bounces. As these scammers typically operate from outside the United States, it is often impossible to prosecute them or recover any funds that have been sent.

What to do

If you are told that you have won money or prizes through a lottery and are asked to give money for any reason before collecting it, you are surely dealing with a scammer.