The Better Business Bureau is warning consumers that financial losses are on the rise from schemes involving phony lotteries and sweepstakes during the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the BBB, the bureau has seen a decline in complaints since it conducted a 2018 study on sweepstakes and lottery-based fraud, but financial losses have surged by more than 35% in terms of reported dollar losses, according to Federal Trade Commission data.
In the schemes, criminals reach out to consumers through a variety of channels, including phone calls, email, social media and text messages. Typically, fraudsters impersonate state lotteries or national contests, including Publishers Clearing House, and when they do so, they ask the “winner” to pay taxes or fees before a prize can be awarded.
The thieves usually request payment via wire transfers or bank deposits, but can also request gift cards in perpetrating the theft.
If you suspect that you may be the victim of such a scheme, the BBB advises you to use the following tools to evaluate the veracity of the claims:
-True lotteries or sweepstakes don’t ask for money. If someone wants money for taxes, themselves or a third party, they are most likely thieves.
-You have to enter sweepstakes and lotteries to win. If you don’t remember doing so, contact authorities.
-Consumers are urged to contact the sweepstakes company or state lottery directly to determine whether they have won a prize.
-Law enforcement officials do not call and award prizes.
Consumers who believe they have been subjected to lottery or sweepstakes fraud can contact the BBB, the Federal Trade Commission at 877-FTC-HELP, or the US Postal Inspection Service at 877-876-2455.