It’s National Consumer Protection Week. As part of this week’s event focusing on consumer education, we’re posting a daily consumer tip. Today’s tip revolves around this pitch: Congratulations! You may receive a certified check for up to $400,000 in cash! That's right, lump sum and tax-free! Hundreds of people win every week using our secret system! You can win too!
Sound too good to be true? That’s because it is. Foreign lotteries are scams. Don’t fall for them.
In these scams, you receive a call, email or letter — usually from a foreign country — telling you about a way to select winning lottery numbers. All you need to do, supposedly, is call a toll-free number to find out more. Actually, in order to “claim your winning number” you’ll be asked to wire transfer a “processing fee.”
The result: you will wire the money to Canada or Spain or the Virgin Islands and never receive your check for $400,000 – nor do you ever hear from them again. They may even send you a counterfeit check for a few thousand dollars and tell you to cash it and send a portion by wire to cover “taxes and attorney fees” on the rest of the prize. The bank will charge you for all funds withdrawn when the check bounces—and the money is gone.
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?
The Federal Trade Commission 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 criminals often ask for them during an unsolicited sales pitch. Scammers will use this type of information to empty your bank accounts.
And one more reminder – don’t wire money to strangers (or people you know, unless you are 100 percent sure the money is going to them and not an imposter). Once you send it—poof—it’s gone. You won’t get it back.