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Watch For Scams Newsletter. Sweepstake Scams
June 17, 2021
Watch For Scams is dedicated to helping you avoid becoming a victim of fraud.
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Sweepstake ScamsSweepstakes and lottery scams resulted in higher financial losses during the COVID-19 pandemic compared to the previous three years, particularly for older people. People over the age of 55 continue to be the primary target of sweepstakes, lottery, and prize scams, representing 72% of fraud reports for this type of scam.
The confinement and isolation many older people experienced during COVID-19 may have helped fuel the increase in losses. Other factors that may contribute to some older people’s particular vulnerability include mental decline and relative financial stability. The victims interviewed were ordinary people more interested in using the imagined winnings to help their families or communities than spending it on themselves.
They may believe the winnings will enhance their role in the family, as well as the ability to financially help their younger relatives. It may feel good to be financially helpful again, especially if this was their former primary role in the family.
Scammers often talk to victims every day, grooming them and building trusting relationships. They take careful notes of the victim’s family and other aspects of their lives, and like romance frauds, try to isolate victims from their traditional support structure.
The “winner” is told to pay taxes or fees before the prize can be awarded. People increasingly are asked to buy gift cards to pay these fees but they also may be asked to pay via wire transfer or bank deposit into a specified account, or even cash sent by mail.
In reality, the prize does not exist, something the people may not realize before paying thousands of dollars that cannot be recouped. However, the harm suffered by lottery fraud victims can far exceed the loss of that money. The losses can put severe strains on family trust, and victims have even committed suicide. In addition, repeat victims may have difficulty ending their involvement in a lottery scam, and they may become money mules who receive and forward money from other lottery fraud victims.
Lottery scammers also often use victims as “money mules” to receive money paid by other victims and then transfer the money to the scammers. This makes it harder to trace victim funds and find the actual scammer. Some victims do this without realizing that the money is coming from other fraud victims; others may believe that this is a way to recover some of the funds they have lost. Still others may become mules because of threats from the scammers.
How to tell fake sweepstakes and lottery offers from real ones:
1. True lotteries or sweepstakes don’t ask for money. If someone wants money for taxes, themselves, or a third party, they are most likely crooks.
2. You have to enter to win. To win a lottery, you must buy a lottery ticket. To win a sweepstakes or prize, you must have entered first. If you can’t remember doing so, that’s a red flag.
3. Do an internet search of the company, name, or phone number of the person who contacted you.
4. Talk to a trusted family member or your bank
If you believe you have been a victim of this type of scam you should promptly report it to the IC3's website at www.IC3.gov. The IC3's complaint database links complaints together to refer them to the appropriate law enforcement agency for case consideration.
Remember - always watch for scams!
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