Like the swallows returning to Capistrano, it was easy to predict that scammers would try to cash in on the awareness and hype surrounding the record Powerball jackpot. Officials confirmed Thursday that three winning tickets had been sold.
Cue the scammers. It wasn't long before this message was making the rounds on Facebook:
“I WASNT GOING TO PUT THIS ON FB BUT I COULDNT HOLD IT AND I STILL CANT BELIEVE THIS!!! I WON $1.5 BILLION. MY FAMILY HAS BEEN CRYING FOR HOURS.”
First of all, there were three winning tickets for a $1.6 billion jackpot, so no one individual won $1.5 billion. Any crying was purely crocodile tears.
The post continues:
“I am picking 10 random people who share this photo and giving them $10,000 each. CALL ME CRAZY BUT GOD is GOOD! FOLLOW ME ON INSTRAGRAM.”
We've seen this one before
Okay, it's “instagram,” not “instragram.” But the bigger point is this is exactly the same scam that was hot a couple of weeks ago, when a similar poster claimed that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who made news when he said he and his wife were donating 99% of their stock to charity, was picking 10 Facebook users at random to share in the riches. To qualify, one supposedly had to “Like” or “Share” something.
While this might qualify more as a hoax than a scam, the potential for dangerous fraud exists if you get sucked into claims of free Powerball money. Ahead of the drawing, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine issued this warning to be on guard against creative schemers.
“If you receive a call saying you’ve won the lottery, it’s almost always a scam,” Attorney General DeWine said in the alert. “Con artists play on what’s in the news, so we’re warning people to be wary of scams as the Powerball jackpot grows.”
Average loss of $5,000
Over the last four weeks as the jackpot grew, DeWine said his office's Consumer Protection Section had received more than two dozen complaints involving sweepstakes or prize scams. The average reported loss, he said, was about $5,000.
DeWine says consumers should hang up on any callers who say they have won lottery money. That's not how it works.
In most cases, the scammers who say their victim has won the lottery require them to send several thousand dollars – always in a non-traceable manner – in order to receive their millions. Again, that's not how any lottery works.
If you happen to get one of these calls, hang up and report it to your local police department and state attorney general.