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BBB warns people losing millions in sweepstakes, lottery and prize scams

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) - - A new study released from the Better Business Bureau reveals victims are losing millions of dollars through sweepstakes, lottery and prize schemes, devastating people financially and emotionally.

The report highlights that seniors are often the target of these frauds through different avenues like direct mail, cold calling, social media and even text messages or smartphone pop-ups. The most common victims ranging between ages 65-74, including people who have gone through negative life events or someone who is worried about their financial future.

The study called,

"Sweepstakes, Lottery and Prize Scams: A Better Bureau Study of How 'Winners' Lose Millions Through an Evolving Fraud,"
reports these types of scams took $117 million dollars of money from victims in 2017. The BBB received 2,820 sweepstakes and lottery scam reports last year, with the average loss of about $500.

Officials found out these types of schemes commonly originate in Jamaica, Costa Rica and Nigeria.

“The law requires you to purchase a ticket to play the lottery, but a legitimate lottery or sweepstakes will never ask its winners to wire money to claim the prize,”
said Tony Binkley, Greater East TN BBB president and CEO.
“It’s heartbreaking that these fraudsters are continually finding new ways to prey on older people who are dreaming of a big win or a financial windfall in their final years.”

BBB offers the following advice for consumers to avoid fraud:

  • True lotteries or sweepstakes don’t ask for money. If they want money for taxes, themselves, or a third party, they are most likely crooks.
  • Call the lottery or sweepstakes company directly to see if you won. Publishers Clearing House (PCH) does have a sweepstakes but does not call people in advance to tell them they’ve won. Report PCH imposters to their hotline at 800-392-4190.
  • Check to see if you won a lottery. Call the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries at 440-361-7962 or your local state lottery agency.
  • Do an internet search of the company, name, or phone number of the person who contacted you.
  • Law enforcement does not call and award prizes.
  • Talk to a trusted family member or your bank. They may be able to help you stay in control of your money in the face of fraudster pressure.

The Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker℠ is a searchable database of scams where users can report scams or look at reports of scams in a certain area. To research scams reported in your area or to report a scam, visit www.bbb.org/scamtracker/us .