Lottery Scams

If It Sounds Too Good to Be True, It Is

Lottery scams prey on seniorsYou get a letter or a phone call informing you that you are the lucky winner of millions of dollars! Is this too good to be true? Yes!

Lottery scams are becoming more and more common. These scams sound legitimate by using realistic terminology, branding, and positioning.

For example, people that “win” are encouraged to keep the conversation and money confidential and can only collect their funds after the “fees” have been paid. If you receive a similar lottery winnings notice keep these tips top of mind.

Phone Calls

Lottery winnings phone calls often begin with, “Congratulations, you’re a winner!” and then the caller begins explaining the “easy” steps to follow in order to collect the funds. The steps usually include going over the rules and regulations, along with the required fee schedule. The fees may be defined as taxes or required customer fees because you’ve won through an international lottery program.


Letters explaining you’ve won a foreign lottery are designed to be as realistic as possible, although grammatical errors or misspellings are common and should be treated as a red flag that it’s a scam letter. The scam letters may include a United States address, and will often times include a check. The check will be made out to you and will look as real as possible. The funds provided through the initial check are typically sent so that it can “assist” you with the amount of money you owe out of pocket for required fees.

The winner is usually instructed to call the Claims Department as soon as possible in order to review the rules and regulations, fee schedule and payout. The letter may also suggest contacting a claims agent for advice on handling the prize money and avoiding misusing the funds.

What To Look For

Whether the fake lottery information is given over the phone or the mail there are several telltale elements they’ll have in common. They’ll require you to pay fees or set up a fee schedule. This is how the scammer makes money; you send them money, but you never receive your “lottery winnings”.

The scammer may request the money be wired because it’s ultimately quicker for them to receive it and harder for you to trace once you realize you’ve been scammed. The caller or letter will insist that the notification and money remains confidential and that if they have any questions, to only call the phone number provided. This is an easy way to realize it’s a scam because a legitimate organization would never insist on confidentiality.

Another thing to remember is that in the United States it’s illegal to play foreign lotteries across borders, whether over the phone or through the mail. These phone calls or letters are completely unexpected, and if you know you didn’t purchase a lottery ticket from a foreign country then immediately you know that you shouldn’t be collecting winnings for it.

These lottery scams take advantage of the human desire to win. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

If you ever receive a fraudulent phone call, letter or other form of communication about winning the lottery, report it to the Federal Trade Commission at

Watch this 10 Tampa Bay CBS news story video on “The Publishers Clearing House Scam“.