A phone call, text or email indicates that you have won the Mega Millions lottery jackpot and asks for a fee to claim the prize.
In November 2022, we received an email from a reader who claimed to have been targeted by a scam. The scammers claimed that the person had won the Mega Millions lottery jackpot. The scammers provided a “claim check number” and told the victim to go to a local Dollar General store. The victim was asked to wire $475, possibly through Western Union, in order to claim the bogus price. Luckily, the person doesn’t seem to have sent any money to the scammers.
Mega Millions has no fees
To be clear, Mega Millions has posted on its own official website that “there is never a charge to claim a real lottery prize”.
If someone pretends to be with Mega Millions and asks for money to receive winnings, then it’s a scam.
We found several examples of this scam documented by consumers on Facebook. A user reported that scammers asked him for an “insurance deposit”.
It finally happened today. The phone rang. Caller ID said it was from a guy named Richard Griswold. Not knowing who it was, I dropped it on the answering machine. The voice said I was the big winner of the combined Mega Millions and Publishers Clearing House fall contest of hundreds of millions plus a bonus prize of a new Mercedes. All I had to do was call their manager on a phone number in New York (area code 347) – which was surprising it wasn’t India, Belarus or Nigeria.
Here is the kick. I would (of course) need to make an “insurance deposit” with them to ensure the funds were paid out to the correct winner.
Many of the messages we reviewed indicated that the scammers were calling their scam the “Mega Millions Sweepstakes”.
Good afternoon Facebook family and friends. Well, the scammers are doing it again. This time it’s about winning the Mega Millions contest. The callback number is 218-277-1559. Please forward. The caller is providing you with what appears to be legitimate information. But nothing but a scam. Seniors pay particular attention.
We urge readers not to click on suspicious links or call suspicious phone numbers. Scammers are known to create websites that might look like an official company page. They can also impersonate customer services over the phone for the company they claim to be affiliated with. However, this is all just part of the scam.
With regards to these types of sweepstakes scams, the US Better Business Bureau (BBB) stated the following on their website:
According to data from BBB Scam Tracker, sweepstakes scammers use a variety of channels: phone calls, emails, social media, mail notifications, and text messages. They can impersonate well-known sweepstakes such as Publishers Clearing House or a state or provincial lottery. The “winner” is required to pay any taxes or fees before the prize can be awarded. The FTC notes that people are increasingly being asked to purchase gift cards to pay these fees – its use is documented in more detail in BBB’s 2021 in-depth investigative study into gift card fraud – but they can also be asked to pay by bank transfer or bank deposit to a specified account, or even cash sent by post.
The price does not exist, something people may not realize until they pay thousands of dollars that cannot be recovered. However, the harm suffered by victims of lottery fraud can far exceed the loss of that money. Losses can strain family trust and victims have even taken their own lives. Additionally, repeat victims may have difficulty ending their involvement in a lottery scam and they may become financial mules who receive and transfer money from other victims of lottery fraud.
Shortly after the death of his wife in 2020, an octogenarian from Michigan was contacted by scammers who told him he had won second place in a popular sweepstakes, winning $2.5 million, a brand new luxury car and gold medallions. He then started talking to scammers on the phone daily, even contacting them after his daughter changed her phone number. He withdrew money from his retirement account and opened a separate account, sending a total of $72,000 in cash to an address in Mississippi before his daughter cut contact between him and the scammers.
Tips to avoid falling into the scam
The BBB has also published advice on how to distinguish fake sweepstakes and lottery offers from real ones:
- Real lotteries or raffles don’t ask for money. If someone wants money for taxes, themselves or a third party, most likely they are scammers.
- You must enter to win. To win the lottery, you need to buy a lottery ticket. To win a sweepstakes or a prize, you must have entered first. If you don’t remember doing it, that’s a red flag.
- Call the raffle company directly to see if you’ve won. Publishers Clearing House (PCH) doesn’t call people ahead of time to tell them they’ve won. Report PCH imposters or check if you really won at 800-392-4190.
- Check if you won the lottery. Call the North American State and Provincial Lottery Association at 440-361-7962 or your local state lottery agency.
- Do an Internet search for the company, name or phone number of the person who contacted you.
- Law enforcement officials do not call or award prizes. Verify caller ID and don’t send money until you do.
- Talk to a trusted family member or your bank. They may be able to help you.
Additionally, the BBB website provided information for people to report scammers.
We previously reported a similar scam about Publisher’s Clearing House sweepstakes.
“Notice: Be vigilant for Mega Millions® scams.” Mega MillionsApril 24, 2022, https://www.megamillions.com/News/2022/Advisory-Be-Alert-for-Mega-Millions%C2%AE-Scams.aspx.
“Would you pay to win a prize?” Contest scams are costing victims more during the pandemic. United States Better Business Bureau (BBB)June 10, 2021, https://www.bbb.org/article/news-releases/24333-would-you-pay-to-win-a-prize-sweepstakes-scams-cost-victims-more-during-pandemic.