Who doesn't dream about winning the lottery? Many people spend hours thinking about what they would do with their winnings. Stop working, pay off all of their debts, buy a new house and help take care of family and friends are just a few ideas.
The thought of getting rich quickly is so thrilling, it can sometimes cloud a person's judgment and lead them to letting their guard down. That's actually happening right now as the latest lottery scams are making the rounds.
How lottery scams are tricking people
What we're talking about are scams dealing with the Mega Millions lottery. People in 44 U.S. states plus the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands are eligible to play Mega Millions, which means plenty of potential victims for scammers.
Lottery officials say criminals are contacting people through email, social media and even on the phone. The scammers are pretending to work for the lottery in an official capacity.
They're identifying themselves as working for important sounding organizations like "United States National Lottery," "Mega Millions Mobile Lottery," and "Mega Millions Corporation." These are all fake organizations of course. It's an attempt to look real to trick people into falling for the scam.
How the scam works is, the criminal tells the victim that they have won a large sum of money or jackpot. The scammer then convinces the victim that they need to wire money to pay for taxes or fees before they will receive their winnings.
How to avoid falling victim to a lottery scam
Lottery scams are so rampant that officials with Mega Millions are giving suggestions to help you avoid becoming a victim. Follow these tips:
- If someone says you have won a lottery that you have never played, be suspicious. You can't win a legitimate lottery if you didn't buy a ticket.
- Be suspicious if an e-mail contains misspellings or poor grammar.
- If you are told that you need to keep your "winnings" confidential, be suspicious.
- No real lottery tells winners to put up their own money in order to collect a prize they have already won. If you have to pay a fee to collect your winnings, you haven't won.
- Just because a lottery is mentioned does not necessarily make it a real prize. Someone may be using the lottery's name without its permission or knowledge.
- Never give out personal information or send money unless you verify the company's or solicitor's legitimacy.
- If they offer to wire the "winnings" directly into your bank account, do NOT give them your bank account information.
- If you are told that you can "verify" the prize by calling a certain number, that number may be part of the scam. Instead of calling it, you should look up the name of the lottery or organization on your own to find out its real contact information.
- If you think someone on the phone is trying to scam you, hang up immediately. If you engage them in conversation, your name and contact information could end up on a list that's shared with other scammers.
Obviously, these scams are not limited to the Mega Millions lottery. Criminals could pretend to be from any lottery available in your state, so you need to keep your guard up.
There is more information about lottery scams on the Federal Trade Commission website. If you believe you are the victim of a lottery scam, contact your local or state police.