Lottery scams to watch out for as Powerball, Mega Millions jackpots soars

As the Powerball and Mega Millions jackpots grow larger, people buying lottery tickets should be on the lookout for scams. 

The Powerball jackpot climbed to an estimated $875 million after there were no winners in Wednesday night’s drawing. The estimated jackpot for the next Mega Millions drawing slated for Friday night is up to $560 million. 

More than 460,000 Americans reported losing a total of more than $330 million to lottery-related scams over a recent three-year period, according to the Better Business Bureau. There are common scams to be on the lookout for while playing the lottery. 

The scams usually involve getting a call, email or letter saying you won a sweepstakes, lottery, or prize, according to the Federal Trade Commission. If you didn’t buy a ticket, ignore any notices saying you’ve won the lottery. If you did play, there are prize scams to look out for, including being asked to pay in order to get prizes.

“Do not send money! If you are asked to pay a fee to claim a prize, you are likely being scammed,” Powerball notes on its website. “This includes cashier’s checks, money orders or any type of prepaid card.”

Scammers will often ask people to pay this way because it’s hard to track who the money went to, according to the FTC. It’s also almost impossible for victims to get their money back. 

The agency and lotteries say players should never share personal or financial information. Scammers will try to get the information by offering to wire prize money directly into your bank account.

According to Powerball, lotteries will never contact players via email or social media to tell them that they’ve won a prize unless they’ve specifically entered an official lottery promotion or contest. People should never accept a collect call from someone claiming to be a lottery official. 

If you get a lottery message in the mail, the FTC advises checking the postmark on the envelope or postcard. If it was mailed by bulk rate, it means many other people got the same lottery notice. People can also head online and search for lottery messages to see if other people have received similar notices. 

A message saying you’ve won a foreign lottery is likely a scam because it’s against federal law for U.S. citizens to participate in a foreign lottery.

If you think you’re being scammed, you can call the lottery in your jurisdiction and ask for the security department. You can also report it to consumer protection offices and law enforcement agencies. 

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