NATIONAL – According to the latest data provided by the Better Business Bureau (BBB), the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), 80% of money being lost by individuals over 65 is due to lottery, sweepstakes, and prize schemes. An in-depth investigative study on lottery and sweepstakes schemes was conducted in June of 2018 by the BBB.
The study found that the reports on these schemes have slowly declined, but grievances filed to the FTC and IC3, have remained constant in financial losses and in number of reporting. Since 2018, of the 4,417 lottery and sweepstakes scam, almost half or 1,980, have come from individuals over the age of 65; of the $3.1 million dollars in losses that were reported to the BBB’s Scam Tracker, $2.52 million dollars of that was lost by the 65 and older community. Combined losses reported to the IC3 and the FTC for 2017, 2018, and 2019 is $465 million dollars.
It appears that those behind these scams are using COVID-19 to their advantage to further their agenda. Some scammers have gone so far as to claim that there are COVID-19 safety precautions and that money being wired or purchasing gift cards, will be used to bypass the security restrictions in order for the victim(s) to receive payment for their supposed winnings. It has been found that many of the lottery and sweepstake scams are originating from Jamaica and are no longer just cold-calling victims. Scammers are now reaching out via email, the U.S. Postal Service, and social media.
Law enforcement officials have made lottery and sweepstakes scams their priority and have dozens of cases that have been prosecuted since 2018 in both the U.S. and Jamaica.
Additionally, here are some tips to avoid being a victim in a prize, lottery, or sweepstakes scam:
- You will never have to pay for winnings.
- You have to play in order to have a chance at winning, (the exception is Publishers Clearing House who does not ask for money and does not contact winners beforehand).
- Publishers Clearing House’s hotline to report fraud (800) 392-4190
- Talk to your bank or a trusted family member/friend.
- Call the sweepstakes company or lottery directly to see if you have won.
- North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries at (440) 361-7962
You can report a lottery, sweepstakes, or prize scam at:
- Senate Subcommittee on Aging Fraud hotline:1-855-303-9470
- Adult Protective Services
- United States Postal Inspection Service:uspis.gov or 1-877-876-2455
- Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3): gov/complaint/default.aspx
- Better Business Bureau: BBB Scam Tracker at org/scamtracker
- Federal Trade Commission (FTC):gov/complaint or 877-FTC-Help