Fake lotteries and sweepstakes rank among the top five frauds elderly citizens encounter. But these scams don’t just target older adults. Anyone at any age could become a victim. According to the Federal Trade Commission, lotteries, prizes, and sweepstakes scams came only behind imposter fraud and online shopping swindles in terms of the highest reported crimes in 2022.
But why are these scams so successful? And what measures can you take to protect yourself from them? Let’s take a closer look.
WHY IS IT EASY TO FALL FOR LOTTERY SCAMS?
The prospect of winning an unexpected sum of money can get anyone excited. The euphoria is multiplied when the amount is substantially large. A heightened state of excitement can interfere with your good judgment. And this human weakness can make you an easy target for a lottery scam.
Besides, criminals are becoming increasingly creative each day. They regularly come up with new tricks and schemes to prey on victims. As a result, predicting their next move is often tricky.
HOW CAN YOU PROTECT YOURSELF FROM A LOTTERY SCAM?
Despite the convincing nature of these frauds, there are several measures you can take to keep yourself safe.
1. BUILD AWARENESS
Although lottery scams keep evolving with new twists and turns, you can identify their underlying features and trends with sufficient knowledge of common ploys.
For example, you can encounter lottery fraud through emails, letters, phone calls, and even text messages. It could use names of reputable and recognizable organizations or those resembling them to avoid suspicion.
Sometimes, scammers could send you fake checks and request you to transfer a payment in return. Other times, they may ask for your personal information, from social security numbers to bank account details. Educating yourself about such prevalent plots is critical to identify red flags.
Understanding common traits of genuine lottery programs is equally essential to help distinguish them from fraudulent schemes.
2. REMAIN CURIOUS
Lottery scams typically take advantage of your trusting nature. Therefore, it is important to keep your guard up without allowing emotions to cloud your thinking.
So, how can you remain curious?
- Ask for more details
For instance, check which organization had arranged the lottery program, when it was held, how many people participated, and how often it is carried out. These details may seem irrelevant to you. But the answers you receive could give away some important clues. They will also provide you with enough information to verify the program’s authenticity on your own.
- Check whether you have entered the lottery
If you cannot recall entering the lottery, it is likely a sham. And if it appears to include participants without their explicit consent or awareness, consider it another red flag.
- Research the program
Doing your own research is critical to verify a lottery. If it involves an organization familiar to you, contact them directly and ask about the program and the winners’ details. If a lottery agency reaches you by phone, look up the number on PhoneHistory to uncover who owns it.
3. IDENTIFY THE TELLTALE SIGNS OF A SCAM
Similar to any other fraud, lottery scams will have a few telltale cues that could lead you to their true intent. By remaining vigilant, you can quickly identify fraud from an authentic program.
Here are the essential signs to watch:
- Requests for personal information
Sometimes a lottery scam could be part of a bigger phishing scheme. Phishing is when a criminal misleads victims into providing their identifiable and confidential information. These can include your date of birth, full name, SSN, address, credit card details, bank account information, or passwords.
Extracting identifiable information is called identity theft. It allows criminals to assume your identity and commit more serious crimes, such as tax fraud and insurance scams. With your financial details, they can target you for financial theft, potentially wiping out your savings overnight. Authentic lottery programs will never ask for such information; anyone who does is probably an imposter.
- Requests for money
A lottery scammer could ask you to pay processing fees or taxes before receiving your prize money. But real lottery programs will not require any upfront payments. Of course, taxes on your winning could range from 24% to 37%. However, the lottery agency typically withholds this amount instead of asking winners to pay it in advance.
- Sloppy communications
A professional organization will pay attention to detail in its communications with winners. Ultimately, they know careless mistakes will not reflect well on their reputation. On the other hand, scammers often make obvious errors, such as typos and grammar mistakes, in their letters, emails, and text messages.
In addition, they are more likely to address you with a general greeting, especially in emails. This is because they rely on a single template to simultaneously target hundreds and thousands of potential victims. But a genuine organization will address you by name and have personalized templates to announce winners.
TO SUM UP
According to reported incidents, elderly citizens are the most vulnerable to lottery fraud. But remember, the anticipation of a substantial prize is enough to make anyone overly trusting. And trust is the essential human weakness fraudsters rely on to make their scams successful.
Therefore, remaining vigilant and taking precautions is crucial for protecting yourself from lottery scams. Awareness can help you anticipate and avoid them. Remain hopeful but curious and wary. Stay alert for telltale signs that could give away their unscrupulous schemes. You can easily protect yourself and your loved ones with a cautious mind.
But if you suspect you have become a fraud victim, inform the authorities immediately. Lodge a report with the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-382-4357 and reach out to the consumer protection office of your state. Record all communications and submit copies to your local police as well. Alert your bank if you have made a transaction.
In addition, keep your loved ones informed. Sharing your experiences with others, particularly on social media, could help build much-needed awareness to combat lottery scams.