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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > August 2018 > Beware of Sweepstakes Scams

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Beware of Sweepstakes Scams

The thought of winning millions of dollars is exciting, but beware of common sweepstakes scams, including those that appear on social media. 

Since Jan. 1, 2018, the Ohio Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section has logged about 60 complaints about sweepstakes scams. Reported losses range from hundreds of dollars to tens of thousands of dollars or more.

Sweepstakes scams generally begin when someone unexpectedly contacts you and claims that you have won a prize. Many times, the scam comes in the form of a fake foreign lottery or a phony notice that appears to come from a well-recognized sweepstakes company. You are asked to send a fee to collect your winnings, but if you pay, the prize never comes. 

Earlier this year, a Cuyahoga County resident reported being contacted by someone stating he had won $1.5 million and $450,000 from two separate sweepstakes, but he needed to pay “luxury taxes” to receive the prize. The consumer reported sending hundreds of thousands of dollars, pulling money from his retirement account, credit card, and loans. Despite being promised a large prize, he never received any money in return.  

Many sweepstakes scams begin with a phone call or a letter, but they also can start on social media. Scammers may pose as “friends” on social media in order to gain trust. They then contact you via direct message saying that you’ve won money.
A Montgomery County consumer was contacted by a “friend” stating that he would have money coming to him if he first sent money to receive his prize. The consumer sent $2,000, only to find out that his real friend never contacted him and that the prize money did not exist.

To avoid sweepstakes and social media scams, remember:
  • Legitimate sweepstakes or lotteries will not charge you to receive your prize. 
  • Con artists often ask their victims to send money using wire transfer, cash, or gift card, so be skeptical when asked to pay using one of these methods. 
  • In general: you cannot win a contest you did not enter; you cannot win a lottery unless you purchase a ticket; and U.S. citizens are not eligible to win foreign lotteries.
  • Be skeptical if a “friend” sends you a message saying you’ve won a lot of money. The message may be part of a scam.
  • Ensure that your anti-virus and anti-malware programs are up to date.
  • As with any unsolicited communication, research the offer before you consider replying. A quick internet search as to the legitimacy of the contest could prevent heartache and financial loss.
Consumers who suspect a scam or an unfair business practice should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at  or 800-282-0515.