COLUMBUS — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine warns state residents to avoid lottery and sweepstakes scams as the estimated Powerball jackpot climbs above the $1 billion mark.
In the past month, the Ohio Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section has received more than two dozen complaints involving sweepstakes or prize scams. The average reported loss is about $5,000.
“If you receive a call saying you’ve won the lottery, it’s almost always a scam,” DeWine said. “Con artists play on what’s in the news, so we’re warning people to be wary of scams as the Powerball jackpot grows.”
The scams often begin with a phone call or a letter claiming the consumer has won a few million dollars through a lottery or sweepstakes. In order to collect the winnings, consumers are told to wire a few hundred or a few thousand dollars to cover fees or taxes. In reality, they haven’t won a prize, and any money they send will be lost.
Individuals who send money once usually will be contacted again and asked to send more money to cover taxes, customs fees, or other costs supposedly associated with delivering the winnings. As long as the victim continues to send money, the scam artist will keep calling.
Signs of a lottery scam include:
- Winning a lottery you don’t remember entering.
- Receiving calls from a lottery or government agency saying you’ve won millions.
- Receiving an unexpected check for a few thousand dollars.
- Having to pay a fee to collect your winnings.
- Having to send money via wire transfer or prepaid card.
DeWine encourages consumers to take the following steps to avoid scams:
- Be very skeptical of someone who calls you and says you’ve won the lottery. These calls are almost always scams.
- Don’t wire money or pay a fee to receive your winnings.
- Don’t give out your personal information to someone who contacts you unexpectedly over the phone or through email.
- Be skeptical if you are asked to call an out-of-country phone number in connection with a lottery or sweepstakes win.
- Be skeptical if you receive an unexpected check for a few thousand dollars. It could be a counterfeit check used as part of a scam.
If you have older relatives or friends, look for signs that they have been targeted by lottery scams. Red flags include unusual banking activities, wire transfer receipts, or an increased number of phone calls made to them.
Consumers should report potential scams to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or by calling 800-282-0515.