(COLUMBUS, Ohio)—As the Mega Millions and Powerball jackpots rise, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is warning consumers to beware of phony calls and letters saying they’ve won millions of dollars. The Ohio Attorney General’s Office has received several reports of the scams this week.
“We just warn people to be careful,” Attorney General DeWine said. “In most cases, if you’re getting a call saying you’ve won millions of dollars, it’s a scam.”
The scam generally begins with a call or letter claiming a person has won millions of dollars in a lottery or sweepstakes. The person is asked to wire a few hundred dollars or more to cover “processing fees” or taxes in order to receive the winnings. In reality, there is no prize and any money the person sends will go to a scam artist.
In 2017, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office received about 150 complaints about sweepstakes or prizes. Reported losses often topped several thousand dollars.
Tips to avoid sweepstakes and lottery scams include:
- Don’t send money to receive a prize. Don’t trust people who contact you unexpectedly, claim you’ve won a lottery or sweepstakes, and ask you to pay to receive the prize. If you truly won, you shouldn’t need to send your own money in advance to receive your winnings.
- Be wary of requests for wire transfers, money orders, or gift cards. These payment methods are used frequently in scams. Once the money is sent, it is difficult to trace or recover it. Also, be wary if you receive an unexpected check in the mail. It may be a counterfeit check used as part of a scam.
- Talk to friends and family about scams. Older adults can be especially vulnerable to lottery and sweepstakes scams. If you have older relatives, talk to them about scams and look for signs that they have been targeted. Red flags include unusual banking activities, wire transfer receipts, and an increased number of phone calls made to them.