COLUMBUS--As the Mega Millions jackpot rises, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is warning consumers to beware of lottery and sweepstakes scams.
Consumers are receiving phony calls, letters, and Facebook messages claiming they have won money. They are told they must send $200 to $300 or more to cover fees, taxes, or insurance. If they pay once, they're told to send more money. In reality, they have not actually won, and any money they send will go to a scam artist.
"Anyone can fall for these scams," Attorney General DeWine said. "If you've truly won the lottery, you shouldn't have to pay fees to receive your winnings."
Lottery scams often begin with a phone call or letter claiming the consumer has won millions of dollars. The scammer may pretend to be associated with a legitimate game, such as Mega Millions or Powerball, or lottery organization.
In a newer twist to the scam, consumers receive a message from a Facebook friend, who claims the consumer has won money. The "friend" directs the consumer to contact an "agent" or pay upfront fees to receive the winnings. What the consumer doesn't realize is that the friend's account has been hacked and the message is actually coming from a con artist, not the friend.
Signs of a lottery or prize scam include:
- A message from a Facebook friend saying you've won money
- A call saying you've won millions
- Winning a lottery or contest you never entered
- Claims that you've won a large cash prize and a new car
- Having to pay to access or receive your winnings
- Instructions to send money via wire transfer, money order, or gift cards (such as iTunes cards)
Tips to avoid scams include:
- Be very skeptical of someone who calls you and says you've won the lottery. These calls are almost always scams.
- Don't wire money or pay a fee to receive your winnings.
- Don't give out your personal information to someone who contacts you unexpectedly over the phone or through email.
- Be skeptical if you are asked to call an out-of-country phone number in connection with a lottery or sweepstakes win.
- Be skeptical if you receive an unexpected check for a few thousand dollars. It could be a counterfeit check used as part of a scam.
- Talk to friends and family about scams. If you have older relatives, look for signs that they have been targeted by lottery scams. Red flags include unusual banking activities, wire transfer receipts, or an increased number of phone calls made to them.
Report potential scams to the Ohio Attorney General's Office at www.OhioProtects.org or by calling 800-282-0515.