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BBB: Sweepstakes scams hitting older adults

The BBB reports $2.52 million was lost from this age group, which they say represents more than 80% of money lost by Americans and Canadians.

CLEVELAND — The Better Business Bureau is warning older adults to not fall victim to sweepstakes, lottery and prize scammers.

According to the BBB, The Federal Trade Commission and the Internet Crime Compliant Center, those ages 65 and older are the largest group of people who are impacted by these scams. 

Since 2018, over 4,400 sweepstakes and lottery scams have been reported to the BBB Scam Tracker. According to the BBB, close to half of those reports were from older adults.

The BBB reports $2.52 million was lost from this age group, which they say represents more than 80% of money lost by Americans and Canadians.

“The law requires you to purchase a ticket to play the lottery, but a legitimate lottery or sweepstakes will never ask its winners to wire money or buy gift cards to claim the prize,” said Sue McConnnell, President of Better Business Bureau Serving Greater Cleveland. “It’s heartbreaking that these fraudsters are continually finding new ways to prey on older people who are dreaming of a big win or a financial windfall in their golden years.”

The BBB has tips on what to look for and how to avoid these types of prize scams: 

  • You’ve got to play to win. A notification that you have won a prize in a contest you do not remember entering should be a red flag. If you do regularly enter contests or sweepstakes, make sure you keep track of your entries so you can easily check to see if you have actually entered a contest that contacts you. 
  •  True lotteries or sweepstakes don’t ask for money. If they want money for taxes, themselves, or a third party, it most likely is a scam.
  • Call the lottery or sweepstakes company directly to see if you won. According to Publishers Clearing House (PCH), it does conduct sweepstakes but does not call or email people in advance to tell them they’ve won a major prize, nor asks for money. Report PCH imposters to their hotline at 800-392-4190. Check to see if you won a lottery. Call the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries at 440-361-7962 or your local state lottery agency.

If you or a loved one feel they have been victimized you can reach out to the Better Business Bureau at their website or call the FTC at 877-FTC-Help.