If you answered the phone and the caller identified himself as Justin Timberlake, your scam radar would likely go off immediately. The same skepticism should apply if the person on the other end of the call – or text or email – says they’re with Mega Millions, according to the Colorado Lottery and others.
Especially right now because the upcoming Friday Mega Millions drawing has a $1.35 billion jackpot (estimated cash-option value: $707.9 million).
With the second-largest Mega Millions jackpot ever looming, Meghan Dougherty, the communications manager of the lottery, spoke to PlayColorado. She said that “there is always an increase in fraud attempts during high jackpots.”
Know what to expect if you’re a Colorado Lottery winner
According to Dougherty, the biggest scam the Colorado Lottery hears about is someone receiving a phone call informing them that their ticket is a winner. Mega Millions itself has said that:
“No representative of Mega Millions would ever call, text, or email anyone about winning a prize.” And Powerball echoed that, saying, “Lotteries will never contact you via email or telephone call to inform you that you’ve won a prize unless you specifically entered an official lottery promotion or contest.”
The Colorado Lottery sometimes does call or visit Scratch Second Chance drawing winners. However, those winners have to claim their prizes in person at a Lottery office, Dougherty said. “We don’t manage any of that online or over the phone.”
In addition to staying skeptical of “lottery” phone calls, Dougherty also warned players should never click on a link emailed to them unless it’s definitely from the lottery’s official email.
Take note of these warning signs for lottery scams
As Dougherty pointed out, scammers like plying their trade around big-jackpot games like Mega Millions and Powerball.
Just this past April, Mega Millions noted that phone calls and WhatsApp messages were duping people. The messages said they had won money – and cars, as well. Some of the targets hadn’t even entered a lottery recently.
A lottery scammer’s goal is to trick you into sending them money or giving them your personal information. Requiring payment to receive a prize ranks as the top way fraudsters operate, according to the Better Business Bureau.
Warning signs of lottery scams
- Scammer claim to have won a previous jackpot and wants to share their good fortune. Scammers have even impersonated actual winners.
- Scammers offer lottery tickets at discounted prices. These tickets turn out to be fake.
- Scammers send you a fake check and require you to send money back to cover expenses.
- Scammers claim you have to pay taxes or fees before collecting a prize. According to the Better Business Bureau, no legitimate lottery will ever ask you to do that.
- Some scammers will even say they’re with a fake organization, using invented names like the United States National Lottery and Mega Millions International Lottery, according to KUSA.
Even Instagram served unwittingly as a scam opportunity site for fraudsters targeting Coloradans. Scammers posing as the Colorado Lottery reached out to Lottery Instagram subscribers.
The Colorado Lottery has posted screenshots of some other examples of lottery scams.
Ultimately, the only money you should ever pay toward a lottery is the money you paid for your original ticket(s). And the Federal Trade Commission and Powerball have emphasized that there is never any legitimate reason to disclose your personal information so you can receive a prize.
What to do if you’ve been scammed
If you come across a Colorado lottery scam, you have several options to report it:
- Your state’s Attorney General
- Your local consumer protection office
- US Postal Inspection Service if fraud was conducted via the mail
You can take some steps to recover your money or at least minimize the damage.