You’ve Won! Well, Not Exactly...

Posted on Monday, October 15, 2012

You open your mailbox to find an announcement that says you may have already won a fantastic prize - all you have to do is purchase a magazine subscription or some other product.

Stop! Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller says red flags should be raised if you are asked to pay to enter a sweepstakes or told you already won without entering the contest. Also, legitimate promoters do not require you to pay for “insurance,” “shipping” or “taxes” in order to collect your winnings.

Scammers will likely ask you to send a check or money order by overnight delivery hoping to rip you off before you realize you have been duped. If they offer to send you a check that covers a partial payout to cover any up-front fees, be leery. Usually these checks are fraudulent and can take up to six months to bounce. The funds will be withdrawn from your account to cover the bad check and you will be out what you sent to the fraudster.

So far this year, the Attorney General’s Office has received more than 500 calls from consumers reporting sweepstakes or foreign lottery scams. Sweepstakes are not necessarily illegal, but they are commonly used by disreputable promoters to swindle unsuspecting consumers.

Expect strings to be attached if you’re in a public place like a mall or trade show and enter a prize drawing or sweepstakes. The only thing you might be signing up for is more sweepstake solicitations via the mail or your phone. Often times the personal information you provide on entry forms is sold to third parties for placement on sweepstakes mailing lists.

Thinking about buying a chance to win a foreign lottery? Think again. These types of lottery solicitations violate U.S. law, which prohibits the cross-border sale or purchase of lottery tickets by phone or mail. Your chances of winning are slim to none and you will likely receive more phony offers for other sweepstakes. Your best bet is to ignore all phone and mail solicitations for foreign lottery promotions. If you receive what looks like lottery material from a foreign country, give it to your local postmaster.