Winning a sweepstakes, dream vacation, large amounts of money, a new car, shopping spree or new technology sounds great, especially if you didn’t enter to win.

Unexpected prize and lottery scams rely on your excitement to lure you into paying fees for your prize or and typically require that you provide your personal information with the intent of compromising your identity.

In 2018, the Better Business Bureau received over 1,958 sweepstakes, lottery, prizes scam reports in BBB Scam Tracker. BBB serving Central East Texas reminds consumers never to pay in order to receive prize winnings.

“You should never have to pay fees for winning a prize,” Mechele Agbayani Mills, President of BBB Serving Central East Texas said. “You will also never win a lottery you never entered.”

How the scam works

You receive a text message, email or even a letter in the mail claiming you’ve won millions of dollars or another high value prize. The correspondence seems to be from what seems to be a legitimate, well-recognized organization. It’s complete with official seals and contact information for the contest organizer.

The catch? You are responsible for paying shipping and handling, insurance, taxes and other fees before you can claim your prize. Scammers may pressure you to pay quickly and using alternative payment methods, claiming that if the fees aren’t paid in this specific way and right on time, you’ll forfeit your prize money.

A few thousand dollars may not sound like much compared to the millions you’ve just won. However, con artists keep asking you, the “lucky winner,” to pay again and again. But it’s never enough to get the funds transferred. Of course, in the end, your prize money never existed.

BBB offers the following tips to avoid this scam:

Be wary of unsolicited correspondence. If you receive a notice out of the blue and can’t recall entering the contest, it’s likely a scam. Look for typos and misspellings, as they are tell-tale signs of a scam.

Never pay fees to claim a prize. You should never have to pay any fees upfront before receiving winnings. Not even taxes. Keep track of any contests you enter. You can’t win a contest you didn’t enter. If you often enter contests and sweepstakes, keep track of them. This will help you spot a fake contest.

Don’t deposit that check. Keep in mind that if you deposit a bogus check or money order into your account, you could be held responsible for any money you spend or send to anyone else once your financial institution confirms that the check or money order is counterfeit.

To learn more about lottery scams and how they work, go to bbb.org for BBB’s study on sweepstakes, lottery and prize scams.

For more tips on how to be a savvy consumer, go to bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, please call BBB at 903-581-5704 or use BBB ScamTracker.

For more tips on how to be a savvy consumer, go to bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, please call BBB at 903-581-5704 or use BBB ScamTracker.