BBB Study: Sweepstakes Scams Continue to Evolve

A new study by Better Business Bureau found that frauds concentrate on seniors by targeting them via direct mail, media, cold calling, social media, text messages and smartphone pop-ups.

The report, “Sweepstakes, Lottery and Prize Scams: A Better Business Bureau Study of How ‘Winners’ Lose Millions Through an Evolving Fraud,” notes these scams obtained at least $117 million from half a million Americans and Canadians in 2017 alone.

The majority of lottery or sweepstakes scam victims are between 65 and 74 years old. Among that age group, people who recently experienced a serious negative life event, and expect their income to remain steady or decline, are more likely to be victimized.

The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) found that of the social media sweepstakes fraud victims who provided their age, 60 percent were 60 years old or older.

The fraudsters leverage social media by setting up a cloned profile of a Facebook user, including their profile picture, and will reach out to the user’s friends with the cloned profile.

In 2017, 2,820 individuals reported sweepstakes and lottery scams to BBB Scam Tracker. These reports show a median loss of $500, with wire transfer as the most common method of payment.

BBB offers the following tips for consumers to avoid lottery or sweepstakes fraud:

  • True lotteries or sweepstakes don’t ask for money. If they want money for taxes, themselves, or a third party, it is most likely a scam.
  • Call the lottery or sweepstakes company directly to see if you won. Publishers Clearing House (PCH) does have a sweepstake but does not call people in advance to tell them they’ve won. Report PCH imposters to its hotline at 800-392-4190.
  • Talk to a trusted family member or your bank. They may be able to help you stay in control of your money in the face pressure from a fraudster.
  • Use your good judgment. If a social media message says you have won something that sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

The full study can be found at www.BBB.org. To report a sweepstakes scam or any other type of scam, go to www.bbb.org/scamtracker.