Don't Be Fooled by These Powerball and Mega Millions Scams

Photo:  Dominique James (Shutterstock)
Photo: Dominique James (Shutterstock)

The odds of winning the Powerball jackpot today are 1 in 292 million. That was the population of the United States back in 2003, meaning your odds of winning the Powerball today are the same as being randomly picked in 2003 America by President George W. Bush, to have dinner with him at the White House. Feeling lucky?

Despite the slim odds of winning, many Americans fall for lottery scams—with the Powerball climbing to over $1 billion, who doesn’t want to believe they won the lottery? But that sad reality is that those calls, texts, or emails telling you that you’re a winner are very likely a scam.

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How does the lottery scam work?

Scammers tell victims that they’ve won the jackpot and provide a “claim check number” with instructions to go to a local Dollar General Store—where you can’t actually claim lottery winnings. They are then asked to wire a sum of money to claim the “prize” or to make an “insurance deposit” to make sure the funds are released to the proper winner. Other victims have been reached by “operators” fraudulently representing Mega Millions and sending official-looking emails, texts, and phone calls also claiming the victims have won. In one particular Mega Millions scam, a potential victim receives a WhatsApp message with a $700,000 “Cash Gift” award “notification”—if they pay a fee to claim the “prize.”

How to not protect yourself from lottery scams

Here’s advice from Mega Millions on how to not get scammed:

  • You can’t win a legitimate lottery if you didn’t buy a ticket.

  • If you are in a jurisdiction that is outside the market area of the lottery or game mentioned as the source of the “prize,” it is a scam.

  • If you have caller-ID on your phone, check the area code when someone calls to tell you you’ve won. If it is from a foreign country, that is a red flag.

  • Be suspicious if an e-mail contains misspellings or poor grammar, or if the person who called you uses poor English.

  • If you are told you need to keep your “win” 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 are asked to pay any kind of fee to collect your winnings, you haven’t won.

  • Just because a real 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 lottery or organization on your own to find 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.

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