Eye on Scams: Sweepstakes scams cost victims more during pandemic

Eye on Scams

LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) — Sweepstakes and lottery scams have resulted in higher financial losses during the COVID-19 pandemic. If anyone asks for money before delivering a prize, it’s most likely a scam. Experts warn consumers to never pay money to claim a prize.

“We’ve seen these types of scams posted on social media,” explained Chris Babin, with the Better Business Bureau of Acadiana. “We’ve had consumers claimed that they’ve received emails and text messages and phone calls. The most common way for scammers to try to scam people with this type of scam is through phone calls. They like to get you on the phone and build your trust in them, get to know you a little bit and try to use that bond that they form with you against you.”

People over the age of 55 are the primary target of sweepstakes, lottery, and prize scams, representing 72% of fraud reports for this scam received by the BBB during the last three years. Adults over 55 lost an average of $978.

Babin said, “One thing they like to do is impersonate the commonly used lottery names. Around here, it might be the Louisiana Lottery. They use Publishers Clearing House. That’s a well-known name. They have nothing to do with those organizations which are reputable, but they pretend to be with them and say that you’ve won 2 1/2 million dollars and a new Mercedes vehicle and all they need is a couple hundred dollars upfront to help cover some costs.”

Todd Kossow, with the Federal Trade Commission, said, “Publishers Clearing House and general sweepstakes scams have been a problem for many, many years.”

The isolation of older people experienced during the pandemic may have helped fuel the increase in losses.

“With the quarantine, people staying at home online a lot more on their phones a lot more. It was an opportunity for scammers to have more people right there at their fingertips which they took advantage of and then even the isolation with the pandemic. People having to stay away from each other especially their older family members. That left the elderly alone as well and that left them vulnerable to these types of scams over this past year,” added Babin. 

Here’s how you can tell fake sweepstakes and lottery offers from real ones:

  • True lotteries or sweepstakes don’t ask for money. 
  • You have to enter to win. To win a lottery, you must buy a lottery ticket. To win a sweepstakes or prize, you must have entered first. 
  • Do an internet search of the company who contacted you. 

For more on Eye on Scams, download our Eye on Scams Podcast on 10 Talks Acadiana. It’s available anywhere you listen to podcasts. 

If you have a scam you’d like me to investigate, feel free to send me an email at smasters@klfy.com

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