Other Opinion: Sweepstakes scam preys on elderly


You’ve struck it rich!

It’s kinda funny that you don’t remember entering that sweepstakes or buying that lottery ticket, but the caller on the other end of line or in an email is insisting that you are a big winner.

Don’t fall for it. And warn the older members of your family or circle of friends to not buy into it either.

It’s most likely a scam.

Sweepstakes, lottery and prize scams continue to disproportionately impact adults over the age of 65, according to data collected by Better Business Bureau's Scam Tracker. This age group accounts for 80% of the money lost by Americans and Canadians to these types of scams over the last two years, according to Scam Tracker.


As a group, victims over the age of 65 lost $2.52 million of the $3.1 million in losses reported to Scam Tracker.

In a consumer alert issued last week, the BBB noted that laws require players to purchase a ticket to play the lottery, but a legitimate lottery or sweepstakes will never ask its winners to wire money or buy gift cards to claim the prize.

“Fraudsters continually find new ways to prey on older people who are dreaming of a big win or a financial windfall in their golden years,” the BBB said.

The scams are sophisticated and always changing, preying on the moment. Recently, scammers have updated their sales pitch to include COVID-19 twists. According to Scam Tracker reports, scammers are discussing supposed COVID-19 safety precautions for prize delivery, and attributing delays in awarding prizes to the pandemic.

Many lottery scam victims keep sending money for weeks or months, thinking that each step is the last one before they get their winnings, the BBB reports.

The BBB offers these tips for detecting and avoiding sweepstakes, lottery or prize scams:

  • You’ve got to play to win. A notification that you have won a prize in a contest you do not remember entering should be a red flag. If you do regularly enter contests or sweepstakes, make sure you keep track of your entries so you can easily check to see if you have actually entered a contest that contacts you.

  • True lotteries or sweepstakes don’t ask for money. If they want money for taxes, themselves, or a third party, it most likely is a scam.

  • Call the lottery or sweepstakes company directly to see if you won. According to Publishers Clearing House (PCH), it does conduct sweepstakes but does not call or email people in advance to tell them they’ve won a major prize, nor asks for money. Report PCH imposters to their hotline at 800-392-4190.

  • Check to see if you won a lottery. Call the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries at 440-361-7962 or your local state lottery agency.

  • Do an internet search of the company, name, or phone number of the person who contacted you.

  • Law enforcement officials do not call and award prizes. If you think you have been contacted by law enforcement, verify the identity of the caller and do not send money.

  • Talk to a trusted family member or your bank. They may be able to help.

Where to report a sweepstakes, lottery or prize scam:

  • Better Business Bureau: BBB Scam Tracker at

  • Federal Trade Commission (FTC): or 877-FTC-Help

  • Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3):

To read up on some general tips for avoiding scams, visit .

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