Seniors are being warned to be “particularly vigilant,” about losing money in sweepstakes, lottery and prize scams.
Data collected by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) shows that consumers over the age of 65 account for 80 per cent of money lost in those schemes.
The BBB says that while reports on lottery and sweepstakes scams have declined since 2018, people aged 65 and older “remain the largest group victimized by these scams.”
“Of the 4,417 sweepstakes and lottery scams reported to the BBB Scam Tracker since 2018, nearly half came from victims over the age of 65,” reads a press release from the organization.
“This age group lost $3.33 million of the $4.1 million reported.”
According to the BBB, many of these scams originate from Jamaica, and scammers may reach out by phone, email, Canada Post or even social media.
Scammers may also contact the public, claiming to be representatives of fake organizations – which sound legitimate – such as the “International Gaming Commission,” and the “Canadian Gaming and Lottery Commission.”
However, neither organization exists, according to the BBB.
Scammers have also updated their sales pitches to reflect the COVID-19 pandemic, such as discussing safety precautions for prize delivery and claiming delays in awarding prizes is due to the pandemic.
Often, victims are instructed to mail cash to scammers. Besides offering fake cash prizes, scammers may lure victims by also claiming that victims will receive luxury cars, laptops or other high-end merchandise.
Once people have become victims of the sweepstakes scams, they are likely to be contacted by scammers again. The BBB adds that many lottery scam victims keep sending money for “weeks or months, thinking that each step is the last one before they get their winnings.”
“The law requires you to purchase a ticket to play the lottery, but a legitimate lottery or sweepstakes will never ask its winners to wire money or buy gift cards to claim the prize,” said Karla Laird, manager for community and public relations with the BBB.
“It is heartbreaking to see that these fraudsters are continuously preying on older people who are dreaming of a big win or a financial windfall in their golden years.”
The BBB says law enforcement officials in North America and Jamaica have prosecuted several cases in the last two years. The prosecutions included scammers as well as victims called “money mules,” who agreed to participate in additional scam activity.
The BBB has provided the following tips for detecting and avoiding sweepstakes, lottery or prize scams:
- You’ve got to play to win. A notification that you have won a prize in a contest you do not remember entering should be a red flag. If you do regularly enter contests or sweepstakes, make sure to keep track of your entries so you can easily confirm potential winnings if someone contacts you.
- True lotteries or sweepstakes don’t ask for money. If they want money for taxes, themselves, or a third party, it most likely is a scam.
- Call the lottery or sweepstakes company directly to see if you won. According toPublishers Clearing House(PCH), it does conduct sweepstakes but does not call or email people in advance to tell them they’ve won a major prize, nor asks for money. Report PCH imposters to their hotline at 800-392-4190.
- Check to see if you won a lottery. Call the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries at 440-361-7962 or the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC).
- Do an internet searchof the company, name, or phone number of the person who contacted you.
- Law enforcement officials do not call and award prizes. If you think you have been contacted by law enforcement, verify the identity of the caller but do not send money.
- Talk to a trusted family member or your financial institution. They may be able to help you determine if you are being targeted for a scam.
Where to report a sweepstakes, lottery or prize scam:
- Better Business Bureau: BBB Scam Tracker atbbb.org/scamtracker
- Canadian Antifraud Centre: 1-888-495-7597
BCLC Customer Support Centre: 1-866-815-0222