January 12 2016

Better Business Bureau Warns of Powerball Scams Ahead of Record $1.5B Drawing

By: Rich Hosford

Wednesday’s Powerball jackpot is now up to an estimated $1.5 billion, the biggest in lottery history. Many people are running out to get tickets in the hopes of winning. Scammers are also hard at work with the hopes of stealing people’s money. 


According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), scammers will be taking advantage of the situation to trick people into thinking they are winners.


The big Powerball winners will be announced on television and online, but BBB expects to see scammers reaching out via email, telephone and snail mail to “inform” secondary winners of smaller prizes, a scam warning states. Lottery scams were among the Top Ten Scams of 2015. 


According to the BB, typically, targets of a lottery scam are asked to pay “taxes” or other fees upfront before they can claim their “winnings.” 


“Of course, once they make the payment (or several payments), the big prize never materializes and the scammers are nowhere to be found,” the warning reads. 


In another variation of the scam, the target receives a congratulatory letter in the mail informing them of the big win. Included is a check to cover the taxes on the winnings. Victims are instructed to deposit it into their bank account and then send the money to a third party, usually by wire transfer or prepaid debit card, which are largely untraceable. The lottery check is a fake that bounces and the victim is out the money.


Here are BBB’s tips to avoid lottery scams:


- Don't pay up to claim your prize. You should never have to pay money or buy products in order to receive a prize. Be especially wary of requests to send money via wire, prepaid debit card, gift card or other unusual forms of payment.


- Be wary of email announcements. Major sweepstakes organizations sometimes email about smaller prizes, but for big winners they usually show up at your house with a big check (and a camera crew).


- You can't win a contest you didn't enter. You need to buy a ticket or complete an application to participate in a contest or lottery. Be very careful if you've been selected as a winner for a contest you never entered.


- Verify -- but not by using a source the scammers give you. Check if an offer is real, but don't call the phone number in the email or website you suspect may be a scam. If it is a con, chances are the person on the other line will be involved, too.


- Check with BBB: Learn more about lottery scams and other cons at bbb.org/scam. Report scams to BBB Scam Tracker (bbb.org/scamtracker).

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