Lottery Scams

The golden rule of any lottery is that it is NOT possible to win a raffle, competition, lottery prize draw or sweepstake that you have not entered. You MUST buy and have possession of a winning ticket in order to qualify for any genuine competition.

No legitimate lottery will ask you to pay fees or taxes in order to claim your prize. Taxes are paid to the government, not the lottery firm itself.  Never respond to suspicious emails that inform you of a lottery win, and never open any links found in such emails. You should never give out any personal or financial information over the phone, through email or via a letter.

In order to win a lottery prize of any kind, you must have purchased a ticket that is valid for the date of the official drawing. Your number selection must match the winning numbers published by lottery officials. These officials will never contact you directly if you have won a lottery prize – you are responsible for contacting a lottery firm if you think that you possess a winning ticket.  No official lottery will ask you to pay a fee or any taxes on a lottery prize that you have won.

Lottery Scam Overview

Lottery scams are a form of fraud in which the potential victim is unexpectedly contacted by an organization that informs them of a "win" for a lottery or competition that the victim never entered.  The person is then asked to pay an administrative fee so that the funds can be released. Of course, this money never appears, and the victim has to pay an ever-increasing amount of "fees" and "taxes" with only a vague hope of their winnings ever appearing. The victim becomes emotionally invested in the process and is tempted to continue sending money in hopes of getting the prize.

How to Identify a Lottery Scam

Tell-tale signs of a lottery scam include:

  • The letter is addressed to a "reader" or a "winner" and does not call you by your real name.
  • The letter contains multiple spelling and grammar mistakes.
  • If you have received a possible lottery scam letter, then you may notice that the message has been printed on low quality paper and uses poorly-copied versions of lottery logos. The lottery mentioned may not even exist, and there may be no return address on the letter or the envelope.
  • However, some fake lottery notices look polished and professional. These scammers may use official letterheads without the consent or knowledge of the genuine lottery that they are imitating.
  • The message stresses an "urgent" need to claim the prize and to pay a "processing fee" in order to receive the funds. The potential victim is then asked to agree to a confidentiality requirement. Scammers do this in order to discourage their target from seeking advice about their "prize" from others who may be able to see through the deception.
  • Some correspondence may even include a check or a money order. The victim must wire a portion of this check back to the scammer in order to cover "taxes" or "processing fees". In some instances, the victim only realizes that the check is counterfeit once they have withdrawn the money from their own accounts in order to cover the "fees".

While lottery scams may have many different forms, they all share the same goal – draining money or personal and financial information from unsuspecting victims.

Types of Lottery Scam

While many of these scams are received through the mail or via the phone, scammers are becoming more innovative and have embraced the use of technology. 

Social media scams: Scammers will message a Facebook or other social media site user with the news that their account has been selected to win a lottery prize or raffle prize. The victim is directed to a link that encourages them to pay a fee in order to release the prize. Some scammers message their victims via a chat messaging service in order to convince the user that they need to act quickly – and hand over their money – in order to claim their winnings.

Direct phone scams: These scams are pretty straightforward - a fraudster will call a victim and inform them of a "lottery win" or a "massive jackpot prize" offered by a lottery that doesn't exist. The scammer is hoping that the victim will be so overcome with emotion that they will immediately hand over their personal and financial information. You can avoid becoming a victim by checking the Caller ID as the phone is ringing. Certain area codes are popular with lottery scammers, such as 876 (Jamaica), 473 (Grenada) and 268 (Antigua), as they resemble U.S. telephone numbers.

Cell phone scams: A text message is sent to a potential victim informing them that their number has been selected to win a massive jackpot. The message may appear as if it is coming from a popular company, such as Coca-Cola or Verizon. The person is then asked to get in touch with the "lottery" involved so that they can receive their winnings. If the victim responds to the scammer, then they will be asked to provide their financial and personal information so that they can receive their "prize".  The victim can face hefty fees for calling the scammer's number and can even leave themselves susceptible to phone hacking.

Email scams: Much like a direct mail scam, a message is sent that tells the victim that they have been selected to win a lottery prize. Unlike direct mail, email scams often look genuine and trustworthy. The email itself may link back to a clone of an official website, which can trick the victim into thinking that the "lottery" is genuine. Some email scammers trap their victims by claiming that they have been selected to win a prize based on a lottery run by the victim's email provider. As usual, the so-called "lottery" doesn't exist, and the victim is tricked into handing over their money.

Second chance scams: Scammers who use this tactic will trick victims into thinking that they have won a rollover drawing or raffle. They are often based on rollover drawings where no player has won a valid jackpot. The scammer tells the victim that they have been selected to win a "second chance" drawing for a well-known lottery, such as Powerball or Mega Millions. The scammer is hoping that the victim has indeed bought a ticket for a recent drawing and will be swayed by the opportunity to pick up a big prize. In reality, Mega Millions will return any unclaimed jackpot prizes to each state that participates in the game and lets them decide how to use the funds. Powerball has a similar system - if winning numbers are drawn for a jackpot prize and no one steps forward to make a claim, the money simply goes back to the participating states.


Lottery scams are constantly evolving as fraudsters find new ways to separate victims from their money. These people exploit the surge of emotion that many people feel upon receiving news of a big win. Scammers hope that their victim will be too overwhelmed to see the deception for what it is.

Everyone wants to strike it rich with a lottery win, but you can't let your dreams of big payouts cloud your judgement. By educating yourself about lottery scams and exercising some common sense, you can make sure that you can protect both your finances and your identity. is committed to fighting lottery fraud so that everyone can play safely.

If you think that you have been targeted by a lottery scammer, then you should cease all contact immediately and contact your state Attorney General or your local lottery authorities. If you have already made a payment to someone who you now suspect is a scammer, then you should cease all contact with them and alert your bank or credit union as soon as possible.

You can make a complaint about lottery scams to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) by clicking here. The FTC is a consumer protection agency that issues press releases and warnings about lottery scams and other forms of fraudulent activity.

Monday October 2nd 2023
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