People believing they’ve won the lottery are being scammed out of millions of dollars in an evolving fraud scheme, according to officials.
The Better Business Bureau conducted an investigative study, which they say shows scams involving the lottery, sweepstakes and other prizes growing more rampant on social media.
The scammers largely target people between the ages of 65 and 74.
One-third of the reported scams were said to live on Facebook, though some more sophisticated versions can be found in the form of text messages and smart phone pop ups.
The most well-known of the alleged frauds involves a cold call from a so-called Publishers Clearing House.
“It boils down to this: you’re going to get a call, you’re going to get a letter, you’re going to have something pop up on social media and it’s going to tell you that you are a winner,” said Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who noted that lottery and sweepstakes scams have been among the top seven on her office’s list of complaints for decades. “And everybody wants to be a winner and everybody wants something for nothing and everybody wants to believe that they are going to get a new car or they are going to get a million dollars. And so once you hear that there’s just a little catch, you’re already lured in.
According to the BBB study, the median amount lost by the scams is $500, with wire transfers reported as the most frequent method of payment.
“There is an almost 0 percent chance that once you wire money away we’re ever going to get it back for you,” Madigan said.
Experts offered up one way of knowing if something might be a scam, saying if you have to pay to claim a prize, it’s too good to be true.
The lotto does not charge you to claim winnings and Publishers Clearing House does not call in advance to tell you you’ve won, officials said.