mers falsely use Virginia Lottery name
"You've won the lottery!" It's something that many people want to hear. But sometimes those words come from scammers who are trying to steal your money. Recently, some of those scammers have falsely identified themselves as being with the Virginia Lottery.
"These criminals use a lot of tricks to create the appearance of a legitimate lottery," said Virginia Lottery Spokesperson John Hagerty. "We believe we are seeing an increase in attempts to scam people."
The scams often target older people and have been known to wipe out victims’ retirement savings.
”AARP encourages its members and all older Virginians to be on the lookout for signs of consumer fraud to protect themselves, as well as their friends and family,” said AARP Virginia State Director Bill Kallio. AARP offers tips on avoiding scams and fraud at http://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/.
The scams take many forms. In most cases the criminals e-mail or call to tell intended victims they have won a large prize. They might identify themselves as being with the Virginia Lottery or with Mega Millions, even though Mega Millions is a game, not an organization. Some scammers have lifted photos and language from the Virginia Lottery's website to make themselves look legitimate.
These scams all have one thing in common: They try to trick you into sending them money or personal information by claiming that you have won a large lottery prize.
"It can be an effective lure to tell someone they have won a large prize when in fact that is not the case," said Hagerty. "If someone tries to tell you you've won a lottery that you never played, it’s most likely a scam."
If the person is fooled into thinking he or she has won a prize, the crooks usually try to get the person to wire money for "taxes" or "fees." They may also try to get the victim to provide them with a bank account number, which they will then clean out. Another trick is to send the winner a bogus "check" and ask the winner to send money back to cover expenses. It is only after victims have sent their own money that they discover the check they received is counterfeit.
There are some occasions, usually involving unusual prizes, when a Virginia Lottery representative will call players to inform them they won. If you have a Mega Millions or Win for Life subscription through the Virginia Lottery, or you win a second chance drawing or sweepstakes, a Lottery representative will call if you win a large prize. However, for the vast majority of Virginia Lottery prizes, Lottery officials do not call winners. Except for subscribers, no one at the Lottery knows who has won a prize until the ticket is presented for validation.
Here are some tips that can prevent you from being scammed:
* If someone says you have won a lottery that you have never played, be suspicious. You can't win a legitimate lottery if you didn't buy a ticket.
* If you have caller-ID on your phone, check the area code when someone calls to tell you you've won. If it is from a foreign country, that is a red flag. Also, be aware that some con artists use technology that allows them to disguise their area code: although it may look like they're calling from Virginia, they could be anywhere in the world.
* Be suspicious if an e-mail contains misspellings or poor grammar, or if the person who called you uses poor English.
* If you are told that you need to keep your "win" confidential, be suspicious.
* No real lottery tells winners to put up their own money in order to collect a prize they have already won. If you have to pay a fee to collect your winnings, you haven’t won.
* Just because a real lottery is mentioned does not necessarily make it a real prize. Someone may be using the lottery's name without its permission or knowledge.
* Never give out personal information or send money unless you verify the company's or solicitor's legitimacy.
* If they offer to wire the “winnings” directly into your bank account, do not give them your bank account information.
* If you are told that you can "verify" the prize by calling a certain number, that number may be part of the scam. Instead of calling it, you should look up the name of the lottery or organization on your own to find out its real contact information.
* If you think someone on the phone is trying to scam you, hang up immediately. If you engage them in conversation, your name and contact information could end up on a list that’s shared with other scammers.
The Federal Trade Commission has more information on fake lottery and other scams at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt022.shtm. To file a complaint or get free information call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). If you have been the victim of a scam, contact your local police or sheriff's office or state police.
When it comes to education, the Virginia Lottery is game. In fact, it’s the reason we play. We generate more than $1.3 million per day for Virginia’s K-12 public schools. Operating entirely on revenue from the sale of Lottery products, the Virginia Lottery generated more than $487.1 million for Virginia’s public schools in Fiscal Year 2012. For more info, visit our website, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and check us out on YouTube. Please play responsibly.
Learn more about AARP Virginia at aarp.org/va, find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @AARPVa. AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, with a membership of more than 37 million, that helps people turn their goals and dreams into real possibilities, strengthens communities and fights for the issues that matter most to families such as healthcare, employment security and retirement planning. We advocate for consumers in the marketplace by selecting products and services of high quality and value to carry the AARP name as well as help our members obtain discounts on a wide range of products, travel, and services. A trusted source for lifestyle tips, news and educational information, AARP produces AARP The Magazine, the world's largest circulation magazine; AARP Bulletin; www.aarp.org; AARP TV & Radio; AARP Books; and AARP en Español, a bilingual news source. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to political campaigns or candidates. The AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security, protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors. AARP has staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Learn more at www.aarp.org.