Note: It is not possible to win a prize for any lottery, sweepstake, raffle or contest that you haven't entered. Powerball officials will never contact you about a win or make you pay taxes or fees before you receive your winnings - taxes are paid only to the government.
Powerball scams are a form of advance-fee fraud, where a victim is contacted by a scammer who tells them that they have won a large prize on this popular lottery game. The fraudster convinces the victim that the "win" is legitimate as they attempt to extort money or personal information from them.
These fraudsters work by playing on the emotions that many people might feel when they find out they have come into a large sum of cash. They are banking on their victim to be too stunned to look past the blatant fraud.
How to Identify a Powerball Scam
Powerball scams can take many different forms, but there are some common features among them.
- If a letter or email has been sent to a victim, it may be printed on poor-quality paper and have several spelling or grammar errors. The letter may be addressed to a "reader" or "winner" instead of using the victim's name.
- However, some mail and email scams can look very professional, as the scammers may illegitimately use Powerball branding to convince victims that the correspondence is authentic.
- A fake check may be attached to the letter or submitted as an attachment to an email. The victim may only figure out that the check is a fake once they have taken it to a bank to cash it in.
- Any correspondence sent to the victim will stress that they need to claim their "prize" as soon as possible, while promising not to tell others about the win. This is to ensure that the victim does not reach out to others for advice, which could expose the fraud for what it really is.
- The scam requires the victim to pay a "tax" or "processing fee" up front in order to receive the money. By the time the victim has paid the fee, the scammer has disappeared, and no winnings ever appear.
Types of Powerball Scams
Phone Scams: This type of scam is one of the most common; the fraudster calls their intended victim and tells them that they have won a large Powerball prize with the hope that they are emotionally blindsided by the news and agree to any "taxes" or "fees" that need to be paid in order to release the money. Scammers commonly dial from specific area codes, including 876 (Jamaica), 473 (Grenada) and 268 (Antigua) because they look like domestic U.S. phone numbers. Check the Caller ID before picking up!
Mail Scams: A letter is sent to the victim informing them about their huge "Powerball win", asking them to mail back a portion of the money in order to receive the full sum.
Email Scams: Much like mail scams, an email scam will attempt to convince a victim that they have won a huge amount of money, but that they must cover vague "taxes" or "fees" if they want to receive the cash. They may receive a link to website where they can "claim" the prize, which could contain malware or other computer viruses.
Cell Phone Scams: The victim may receive a text message from an unknown number telling them that they have won a Powerball prize, and that they need to call the number back to arrange claiming the money. If they do call, the victim may face a steep phone bill in addition to being convinced to give up personal or financial information.
Social Media Scams: The victim receives a message on Facebook, Twitter or another platform telling them that their account was selected to win a Powerball prize, and that they need to follow a specific link to make a claim. The victim is told that they need to act as soon as possible to receive the winnings, and after paying the "fees" necessary, the funds never appear.
How to Fight Back Against Powerball Scams
If you think you might have come across a Powerball scam or have been contacted by a Powerball scammer, do not contact the scammer or engage with them in any way. Do not send any money or personal information to the scammer - if you already have, contact your bank or credit union right away to minimize or prevent the risk of identity fraud.
You can send a message to your state's Attorney General to alert them about a possible lottery scam. If you are unsure about how to contact your AG, you can use the list provided through the National Association of Attorneys General (http://www.naag.org/naag/attorneys-general/whos-my-ag.php).
Complaints about Powerball scams can also be sent to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a consumer protection agency that covers all US states and territories. Click here (https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov to file a complaint online.
Powerball offers some of the biggest jackpots in the world - but the only way to have a chance of winning is to buy tickets from an official retailer. Don't fall victim to a scam!