How to spot a lottery or sweepstakes scam

Your Better Business Bureau receives many calls from people who believe they won a lotteries or sweepstakes they’ve never entered. Unfortunately, many learn there’s no such jackpot. Your Better Business Bureau says — do your research before cashing in.

A lottery or sweepstakes scam begins with an e-mail, letter or text message usually from an overseas company. It will advise you that you’ve won an amount of money or prize in a lottery or sweepstakes you didn’t enter. The message you receive will ask you to respond quickly or risk missing out on the prize or money. They often also urge you to keep quiet about your win. And, you’re asked to pay some fee to release your winnings.

Sometimes the scammers actually do send a check for part of your winnings. This check will eventually bounce, leaving you out the money you sent and paying any fees charged by your bank for the bad check and overdrafts.

According to the National Consumer League (NCL), lottery and sweepstakes scams rank number three on their list of tops scams in 2013.

To avoid becoming a victim of a scam, your BBB offers these tips:

• Remember, you can’t win a contest you didn’t enter.

• Avoid too-good-to-be true prizes. These schemes almost always involve a large sum of money, but there’s always a catch. Scammers make it sound easy to claim prizes. In reality, it’s very unlikely someone will give away a large sum of money with no strings attached.

• Never give out your personal information (credit card numbers, bank account information or social security numbers) to strangers.

• Avoid clicking on links in an e-mails or text messages from unfamiliar people or organizations.

• Never wire money. Or prepaid debit cards.

• Remember, prizes are free. No taxes or fees should have to be paid prior to receiving the prize.

When looking to do business, make sure it’s with BBB Accredited Businesses or Charities. Also, be sure to click the trust button on business reviews of companies you trust and work with. If you have any questions about scams, visit www.bbb.org or call (937) 222-5825 or (800) 776-5301.

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