The lottery scam:
Think you've won the lottery? Think again
Send a link to a friend
(ARA) -- You've probably dreamed
about what you'd do if you won the lottery -- quit your job, build
your dream home or even donate a large sum of money to your favorite
charity. The allure of a huge amount of money falling into your lap
cannot be denied. Scammers know these dreams and feelings well, and
prey on them, making lottery and sweepstakes scams one of the most
prevalent types of scams out there, according to the Better Business
While your chances of winning the actual lottery may already be
slim, you not only won't win with scammers -- you'll likely lose
money. These types of scams work in a number of ways, and all of
them end with an unsuspecting victim losing. Here are three common
ways scammers use the promise of big winnings to their advantage:
A scammer claiming
to be associated with a government agency, a well-known
celebrity or someone associated with a sweepstakes or lottery
tells a victim he or she has won a large sum of money. The
victim is told to send money to cover processing fees or taxes
before receiving the prize. The victim then pays these "fees,"
and never hears from the scammer again.
A scammer sends a
victim a check or money order and claims it's a prize. The
victim is asked to deposit this money and send a smaller portion
of money back to cover fees or taxes. The problem occurs when
the victim deposits the check or money order and sends the
scammer the money as directed before the check clears which can
take weeks. Banks don't always immediately identify the
"winning" check as fake until it's too late and the money has
already be sent to the scammer. The victim is responsible to the
bank for any used funds from the check.
A scammer emails
or sends a victim information about a foreign lottery, or
another alternative lottery or sweepstakes that offers better
odds of winning than a traditional lottery. The victim sends
money to the scammer for a chance at winning, but the lottery or
sweepstakes doesn't actually exist.
The common thread in all of these scams is they require victims
to send money in advance to claim a prize, which is never the case
with a legitimate lottery or sweepstakes.
"The No. 1 rule consumers need to remember to protect themselves
from falling victim to this scam is to never, ever send money to
claim a prize," says Shelley Bernhardt, director of consumer
protection at Western Union, a leader in global payment services.
[to top of second
Bernhardt offers these additional tips to avoid becoming a victim
in a lottery or sweepstakes scam:
Never send money
to pay for taxes or fees on lottery or prize winnings.
Legitimate sweepstakes don't require you to pay or buy something
to enter or improve your chances of winning or to pay taxes or
processing fees to get your prize.
anything claiming to be a foreign lottery. And this is not just
because it might be a scam -- it's actually illegal to play a
Only send money to
people you have met personally, know and trust.
Never provide your
banking or any other sensitive personal information to an
individual or business you don't know, especially if they claim
they need it in exchange for a prize.
Always wait to
withdraw funds from your account until after a check or money
order clears, which can take weeks.
If you suspect a scam, check out the
company or individual who contacted you with law enforcement,
the Better Business Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov)
or another trusted source.
As a trusted method for sending money to family members and
friends, Western Union encourages users of their services to be
vigilant about scams and fraud. To learn about more ways you can
protect yourself from fraud, visit
www.westernunion.com/stopfraud. For more information and videos
on how some of the most common check fraud scams work, visit
[Copy of article from