Scammers are hitting it big by capitalizing on consumers’ desires to get rich quick. More than half of Americans play the lottery each year, yet a rise in the incidence of lottery scams is prompting some consumers to act before thinking. MoneyGram International (NYSE: MGI), a leading global money transfer company, says these scams sometimes result in personal losses of thousands of dollars. “Winning the lottery has become a fantasy for many Americans, especially in the current economy, and this creates a prime opportunity for scammers to capitalize on an individual’s vulnerability,” said Kim Garner, senior vice president of Global Security for MoneyGram. “Consumers have to ask questions. They need to question the source and circumstances of any communication about a lottery or sweepstakes, or they may find themselves becoming a victim of a very expensive lesson.” Garner explained a lottery scam begins when a consumer receives notice by mail or email that they have won a large sum of money, possibly even including a check with an initial sum of money. The individual is then asked to deposit the check into their personal account, and send a money transfer to cover taxes and fees on their winnings before collecting the remainder of their prize. “Once the person sends the transfer, they discover the initial check was fraudulent, and they’ve lost the money they wired to scammers,” said Garner. Garner offers the following advice to protect consumers from a lottery scam:
- If you didn’t enter a lottery, you can’t win a lottery: In most lottery scams, the individual never even entered a lottery or sweepstakes. If you don’t remember entering a particular lottery, it is most likely the sign of a scam.
- Remember lottery protocol: If you receive information directly from a supposed lottery organization, proceed with caution. In legitimate lotteries – such as those run by state lottery commissions – it’s the player who must notify the lottery of a win.
- Uncle Sam always takes his share first: When a large sum is won, taxes are taken out before sending the prize to the winner. Never send money first to receive money later.
- Give it the eye test: Scammers often use free email accounts that are not affiliated with organized lotteries. In addition, spelling and grammatical errors are sure signs of a scam.
- When in doubt, ask questions: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Ask questions to cut off the scammers before they profit.
- Know – Always know the person to whom you are sending money. Never send money to strangers.
- Show – Never show or share information about your money transfer to anyone but the recipient.
- Throw – Discard or throw away any offers that promise easy ways to earn money, especially if the offers require you to send money before earning money.