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Lottery and Sweepstakes Scams

Have you ever received a letter stating "It is your lucky day! You just won a foreign lottery!"? The letter will state that you're a winner or you are a finalist to win a sweepstakes. They will usually send you a cashiers' check to cover the taxes and fees. All you have to do is deposit the check and wire a portion of the money to the sender and once they receive the funds, they guarantee your winnings.

There is just one catch: THIS IS A SCAM!

The cashiers' check you received may appear legitimate, but it's not. These scams lure people into wiring money to someone they don't know, in order for them to claim their "so called" winnings. If you were to deposit the check and wire the money, you would be out the money once your financial institution learned that the check was fraudulent. Once money is wired, it can't be retrieved, and you are responsible for the checks you deposited – even though you didn't know they were not legitimate.

This is just an example of a scam that could leave you wondering what happened.

Here are some tips in avoiding these types of scams.

  1. You cannot win a legitimate lottery if you have not entered it.
  2. You must purchase a ticket to enter a legitimate lottery.
  3. NO legitimate lottery contacts winners. Winners must always contact the lottery first.
  4. You never have to pay to collect winnings from a legitimate lottery or sweepstake. You pay taxes AFTER you receive the winnings. There are no other fees.
  5. Scammers often use the name of a legitimate lottery in the scam.
  6. Consumer fraud reporting agencies have lists of legitimate lotteries on their websites. Since scammers simply invent new names for their fake email scam (the email is the scam, not any persons or companies named in the email), it is more accurate to say that if you do not see the lottery on these lists, it is probably a scam.
  7. Throw away any offer that asks you to pay for a prize or a gift.
  8. Resist the urge to enter foreign lotteries. It is illegal under federal law to play ANY foreign lottery from the United States.
  9. Know who you are dealing with, and NEVER wire money to strangers.
  10. Resist any pressure to "act now." If the buyer's offer is good now, it should be good after the check clears.
  11. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is...

If you think you are a victim of identity theft or a scam, contact your financial institution and law enforcement officials immediately.

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