Coronavirus Lottery Scams Alert

Monday May 11th 2020

Since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, lotteries across the United States have warned of an increase in new scams being reported. Here's how to play it safe and protect yourself during these uncertain times.

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In Kentucky, even a lottery retailer received a call from a scammer trying to persuade employees that they'd won $3 million - a sign of how bold con artists have become.

“We typically see these things start to increase in frequency around large record-breaking jackpots,” said the Kentucky Lottery’s Sr. VP of communications, PR and social responsibility Chip Polston. “Trying to steal money from someone during a global pandemic when many people are very concerned about their finances is a new low, even for these scumbags.”

Other scams ranging from fraud to price gouging are also rearing their heads during the COVID-19 crisis amid increased fear and financial upheaval.

How to spot a scam

If you are contacted by someone saying you've won a cash prize but you need to pay "taxes," "fees," or give personal information before you can receive your money, that's a big red flag.

Phone calls, text messages, social media, emails, and letters are all common ways for con artists to target victims.

The scammer may say they are:

  • From a lottery or government agency
  • A lottery winner who wants to give money away
  • In the U.S. illegally and they want to sell you a "winning ticket." Don't fall for it - undocumented residents are able to redeem their own lottery wins.

Con artists may ask you to send money by paying an online account, purchasing gift cards, making a bank transfer, sending a cashier's check, or even meeting in person to pay with cash.

They may also attempt to get your bank account or credit card number so they can steal from you, or try to obtain personal information, such as passwords, so they can commit identity theft.

Legitimate U.S. lotteries require a winning ticket to redeem a prize, and process all prize claims for free. If a player didn't purchase a ticket, they can’t win a prize.

Polston advises players to ask themselves a few basic questions. “When you buy a ticket, do you give us your phone number? No. Do we take your email address at a retailer when you buy one of our games? No. So we have no means to reach out to you in a manner such as this,” he explained.

"First and foremost, remember that the Lottery will never contact a player to request any kind of personal information or passwords in order to claim or win a prize,” said Illinois Lottery Acting Director Harold Mays.

Social media scams

An old social media lottery scam that has gotten a new lease on life is accounts that impersonate a real lottery winner.

Since New Jersey man Richard Wahl won a $533 million Mega Millions jackpot, hundreds of fake profiles have sprung up claiming to be him and offering a "prize" to followers.

Profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and now TikTok use a photo of Wahl, or claim to be someone he helped financially.

One account offers $50,000 to the first 20,000 followers - but obviously math isn't the scammer's strong point because that adds up to $1 billion, nearly twice as much as Wahl actually won!

Mavis Wanczyk, the Massachusetts woman who won a $758.7 million Powerball jackpot, is also frequently impersonated by fake profiles.

The fake accounts ask followers to pay "taxes" or a "processing fee" before they receive their prize and try to get victims to give them bank account or credit card numbers or other personal information.

Mega Millions scams

Mega Millions recently warned the public not to fall for new scams using the lottery's name and logo. The scam tries to get victims to pay a "fee" to receive a "prize." There is never a fee to claim a real Mega Millions prize.

The scams use names like "Mega Millions International Official Lottery," "Official Anniversary Lottery Site," "United States National Lottery," or "Mega Millions Corporation."

Don't use any links in emails or text messages - they may lead to a fake phishing site that will try to steal your personal information.

What to do if you're targeted by a scammer

If you are contacted by a con artist, do not give them any information or transfer any money to them.

Report the scam attempt to your local law enforcement agency or Attorney General’s office.

You can find more information on The North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries Scam Alert page.

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