Lottery and Sweepstakes Scams

Foreign Lottery Scams

Scammers continue to hit Nebraska mailboxes by sending fraudulent letters involving lottery winnings.

Recipients receive a letter that looks like an official document sent from a lottery office. Many of these fraudulent letters are from foreign countries. The letter tells the recipient they’re being awarded prize money. Often, the letter claims the award is the second of third tier of the contest (people may be more suspicious winning the top prize in a contest they never entered). Recipients are instructed to send payment for fees, taxes, or other expenses to receive the full winnings.

Here’s how it works:

  • You get a letter saying there’s a large sum of money coming from the lottery which must be claimed.
  • You are given reference numbers to prove your winnings and official contact information to claim your prize.
  • A sense of urgency is created by telling you to contact the lottery within a short period of time or risk losing your winnings.
  • You are asked to keep your good fortune a secret until you received the money.
  • If you call the numbers given or use the e-mail contact, you will be asked for personal information or to send money to pay import fees, customs fees or taxes.
  • This scam can have several levels of contact, asking you to send more and more money each time until you realize you’ve been scammed.

Scam operators are using the telephone and direct mail to entice US consumers to buy chances in high-stakes foreign lotteries from as far away as Canada, Australia and Europe. In addition, lottery hustlers may use victims’ bank account numbers to make unauthorized withdrawals or credit card numbers to run up additional charges.

Be careful! If you respond to a foreign lottery letter or email, your name might be placed on “sucker lists” that fraudulent telemarketers buy and sell, allowing other fraudsters to hassle you with more bogus offers for lottery or so-called investment opportunities.

Look for the warning signs that may indicate a scam:

  • You are notified you have won a foreign lottery or contest you did not enter.
  • You receive a large check in the mail from an unknown business or person.
  • You are pressured to send money immediately via wire transfer.

If you hear these—or similar—“lines” from a telephone salesperson, just say “no thank you,” and hang up the phone.

  • “You have won big money in a foreign lottery.”
  • “You must send money right away.”
  • “You must make up your mind right away.”
  • “You don’t need to check our company with anyone”— including your family, lawyer, accountant, local better business bureau, or consumer protection agency.

What you can do to protect yourself:

  • Ignore all mail and phone solicitations for foreign lottery promotions.
  • If you receive what looks like lottery material from a foreign country, give it to your loca postmaster
  • Don’t give out your credit card and bank account numbers.
  • Just hang-up the phone!
  • Never wire money to someone you haven't met.

The Nebraska Lottery has published an informational webiste regarding common lottery scams