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Scammers target elderly in lottery, sweepstakes scams

500K people duped out of $117 million last year

SAN ANTONIO – More than 2,800 individuals reported sweepstakes and lottery scams to the Better Business Bureau in 2017.

The BBB said fraud groups will target seniors by direct mail, media, cold calling, social media, text messages or by using smartphone popups. Many of these cold callers will lie to victims, saying the person won a sweepstakes and will then ask the victim to wire money.

Scammers can be sneaky enough to create a clone of a Facebook profile, including using the profile picture of the account, and will reach out to a user’s friends. 

Facebook said it’s raising its efforts to remove fake profiles. 

Here are few tips to avoid lottery or sweepstakes fraud from the BBB:

  • True lottery or sweepstakes don’t ask for money. If they ask for money for taxes or third-party purposes, it is most likely a scam. 
  • Call lottery or sweepstakes companies directly to see if you won. Publishers Clearing House doesn’t call sweepstakes recipients in advance if they have won. 
  • Talk to a trusted family member or your bank to control your money and resist pressure from fraudsters. 
  • If something sounds too good to be true, it’s probably a scam.                               

These scams commonly originate from Jamaica, Costa Rica and Nigeria, with more than 95 percent of lottery and sweepstake frauds coming from Jamaica.