Did you really win the Mega Millions jackpot or is it a scam?

Here are some warning signs

Lottery scams are nothing new, they’ve been around for decades. But when the stakes rise to $977 million, you know scammers will take their schemes to the next level.

After there was no winner in Tuesday night’s Mega Millions jackpot drawing, the jackpot moved ever closer to $1 billion and lottery officials renewed their warnings to players to be on the lookout for scams.

Lottery officials say that if you get an email, a message via text or social media, or a phone call saying that you have won the big prize, ignore it because it is a scam. 

“The reality is that lotteries have no idea who holds a winning ticket until the winner submits a claim,” officials said. “There are rare exceptions in the case of legal online play within the few American jurisdictions that offer that option, but you still must have first purchased a ticket from that lottery.

Tell-tale signs of a lottery scam

And that is a key point. You cannot win a lottery that you did not enter. Here are some other signs of a lottery scam:

  • You receive a “winning” notice and you are outside the United States. Real lotteries do not hold international sweepstakes, contests or awards for people who live outside their market area. Mega Millions, for example, is played only in the United States, so if you are outside the U.S. and someone using Mega Millions’ name tells you that you have won a big prize, it is a scam.

  • You are asked to pay money for “taxes” or “fees,” or buy a cash card, in order to claim your “prize.” Those are dead giveaways that it’s a scam. No real lottery tells winners to put up their own money in order to collect a prize they have already won by first purchasing a real ticket.

  • Someone asks you for your personal information such as a bank account. Or tells you that you need to keep your “win” confidential.

  • Someone says you have won a lottery that you have never played. Again, you can’t win a legitimate lottery if you didn’t first buy a ticket.

When a jackpot rises to these levels, your odds of getting targeted by a scammer are vastly greater than actually winning the jackpot. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says lottery and sweepstakes are among the top scams reported to the agency each year.

The most recent FTC data show people reported losing $301 million to this type of fraud. That’s an average loss of $907 per person.

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