Winning a lottery or sweepstakes: best day ever?

Is it too good to be true? Maybe you should call your Better Business Bureau. CONTRIBUTED
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Is it too good to be true? Maybe you should call your Better Business Bureau. CONTRIBUTED

Every year, Better Business Bureau receives calls from people claiming they’ve won a lottery or sweepstakes they never participated in. Unfortunately, these “winners” learn they have not won any jackpot. Better Business Bureau warns: do your research before you claim your prize.

These lottery and sweepstakes scams usually start with a pop-up on your computer screen, an e-mail, letter or even a text message claiming you have been chosen as a winner. The message advises you that you have won a certain amount of money or a grand prize. Many times, these messages come from foreign entities. Sometimes the scammers will pose as legitimate companies. The message then instructs you to respond quickly and keep quiet about your winnings or you may be asked to provide banking information for direct deposit of your alleged winnings.

Sometimes, the scammers will send you a check that is often far more than you’ve won. You are instructed to deposit the check and send the difference back to the scammer. However, the check will eventually bounce, leaving you out of the money you sent the scammer and any fees your bank will charge for the bad check and any over-drafting of your account.

According to the Federal Trade Commission Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book, lottery and sweepstake scams rank fourth in the Top 10 Fraud and Other Complaints Count from the Ohio Consumers with 4,614 complaints in 2016 alone.

To avoid becoming a victim of these scams, BBB offers these tips:

• Remember, you can’t win a contest or lottery you didn’t enter.

• Avoid too-good-to-be-true prizes. These schemes almost always involve a large sum of money, but there is always a catch. Scammers make it sound easy to claim prizes. It’s very unlikely someone will give away a large sum of money with no strings attached.

• Never give out your personal information (credit card number, bank account information or social security numbers) to strangers.

• Never wire money or send prepaid debit cards to someone you don’t know.

• Avoid clicking on links in e-mails or text messages from unfamiliar people or organizations.

• Remember, prizes are free. No taxes or fees should have to be paid prior to receiving the prize.

• Keep in mind, just because a real company is mentioned does not mean the winning notification is real.

• Be suspicious if notifications contain misspellings, poor grammar or if the person who called you uses poor English.

• Delete bogus e-mail or text messages as soon as possible.

Be sure to check out offers with your Better Business Bureau. Also, be sure to submit customer reviews on BBB business profiles of companies you trust and work with. Visit www.bbb.org or call (937) 222-5825 or (800) 776-5301.

John North is president of the Dayton Better Business Bureau.