In this scam, you receive a call, email or letter — usually from a foreign country — telling you about a way to select winning lottery numbers, and you need to call a toll-free number to find out more. There is no need to call that number. All the con artist has is a winning way to take your money.
The Opening Pitch
Congratulations! You may receive a certified check for up to $400,000 in cash! That's right, lump sum and tax-free, it must be your lucky day! Hundreds of people win every week using our secret system! You can win too!
There are multiple variations, but a typical presentation involves responding to a letter in the mail by calling a toll-free number. The person on the other end of the line, whose voice is filled with excitement, says something like, “Today is your lucky day! The company has reserved numbers for you.” They imply that you will get the winning numbers that will allow you to collect $400,000 (the number varies). All you have to do to claim this winning number is wire transfer a “processing fee.”
The result is you wire the money to Canada or Spain or the Virgin Islands and you never receive your check for $400,000 nor do you ever hear from them again.
How to Avoid It
Ask yourself one simple question when you hear this pitch, if a company or anyone had the ability to select the winning lottery number, why would they give it to you for a fraction of the winnings? Even though it seems like no one would fall for this, thousands of people do fall for it each year throughout the U.S. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has these words of caution for consumers who are thinking about responding to a foreign lottery:
- There are no secret systems for winning foreign lotteries. Your chances of winning more than the cost of your tickets are slim to none;
- If you purchase one foreign lottery ticket, you can expect many more bogus offers for lottery or investment “opportunities.” Your name will be placed on “sucker lists” that fraudulent telemarketers buy and sell; and
- Keep your credit card and bank account numbers to yourself. Con artists often ask for them during an unsolicited sales pitch. Scammers will use this type of information to empty your bank accounts.