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Unexpected Prize or Lottery Scam

    In a lottery scam, you may receive notification that you have won money or a prize in a competition, lottery or sweepstakes that you do not remember entering. The notification may come by mail, telephone, email, text message or social media.

    The prize you have “won” may be for electronics, luxury items, vacations or money. In order to claim your prize, you will be asked to pay a fee or a tax. Scammers will often say these fees are for insurance costs, government taxes, bank fees or delivery charges. The scam is dependent upon you sending money to the scammer before any “prize” is awarded. The truth is that no actual prize exists, and once you provide payment, the scammer will move on to the next target.

    How it works:

    You will be told to act quickly or risk losing your prize. The scammer wants you to act on emotion and make a rushed decision. The scammer may also urge you to keep the communication confidential in order to prevent you from sharing news of the award with someone who could alert you to the scam. Examples of this type of scam include alleged receipt of an inheritance from a wealthy, previous unknown relative, a prize from a lottery agency, sweepstakes or gaming commission, or a luxury vacation to an exotic destination

    In some cases they don’t know anything about you. These “awards” may be randomly selected, so the scammers do not know your name, personal information or bank account details until you start revealing this information to them. Sometimes the scammers know the names of your friends or relatives, which may be accessed through the Internet, social media, and other information repositories for useful personal information.

    The fraudsters might include a secret number or password to claim the award. They may suggest that the prize is awarded by a foreign foundation and that you should provide your personal information or bank account to claim your award immediately. Sometimes scammers will ask you to pay a tax or fee before they will provide you with the award.

    Never pay taxes or fees before collecting your prize. All lotteries, prizes and gifts are taxed after the fact and are withheld from the actual prize amount. Any associated fees are not be due until after you have collected your prize. If someone asks you to pay money up-front in order to receive a prize or winnings, it is likely to be a scam. Legitimate lotteries do not require you to pay a fee to collect winnings.

    You can’t win if you don’t enter. Remember, you cannot win a contest you never entered. If it is too good to be true, it may be a scam. If the caller becomes aggressive, hang up immediately. Never provide any personal identification information or other information related to your bank account.