The Better Business Bureau (BBB) recently released a report that found the elderly population is frequently targeted in lottery, sweepstakes and other prize-related scams. Seniors between the ages of 65 and 74 are particularly vulnerable to such scams. According to the BBB, the majority of schemes originate in Costa Rica, Jamaica and Nigeria. They can take various forms such as text messages, phone calls, mail or social media.
Last year, such scams resulted in monetary losses amounting to at least $117 million. Wire transfers were the most common form of payment. U.S. and Canada law enforcement received almost 500,000 complaints of fraud related to lotteries, sweepstakes or other prizes from 2014 to 2017. Social media scams comprised about one-third of reports received by the FBI.
“It is devastating that certain individuals have lost entire life-savings to these scams, especially when they need it most — during retirement,” said Phylissia Clark, BBB Vice President of Public Relations in North Central Texas. There are several steps seniors can take to protect themselves from scams and identify fake prize notices from genuine ones. Here are some tips:
- Remember that if you have not purchased a lottery ticket or entered a contest, it is not possible for you to win something. The person contacting you about a prize is likely to be a fraudster.
- Real sweepstakes or lotteries will not require winners to wire money to claim the prize, whether it is for taxes, shipping or customs. If someone asks for money, chances are they are running a scam.
- If you are unsure about having won something, directly contact the lottery or sweepstakes company.
- Use the internet to look up the name or phone number of the individual getting in touch with you about the prize.
- Talk to a trustworthy friend, relative or your bank. They may be able to help protect your finances from scams and fraudsters.