Although many companies use sweepstakes promotions as cost-effective advertising strategies, many out there are dubious of such contests, and for good reason, too. They’re pretty popular. According to the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Report, there were over 100,000 complaints against lottery and sweepstakes scams in 2014. More recently, the Better Business Bureau has issued an alert warning of a Mega Millions scam that’s going around.
This latest con is a twist on a classic lottery scam. The premise is that a real life Mega Millions winner is just giving away some of his fortune, when in actually, it’s a scammer who’s going after victims’ hard earned money.
It works simply. The con artist sends out emails that look like they’ve come from Harold Diamond, a retired principal who this past winter won the largest Mega Millions jackpot in New York lottery history. According to the missive, “Diamond” is giving away some of his fortune to five randomly selected winners, and the victim is one of those lucky few who’ve been chosen to receive $1 million.
Here’s the catch. To collect the money, the victim emails the “lawyer” of “Diamond,” and mentions a verification code number, which is to prove that the victim is the official recipient. The lawyer will then ask that the recipient to pay taxes and/or other fees in order to receive the money, which will obviously never come.
The con is a classic scam that draws on current events. The fact that there’s a real live lottery winner named Harold Diamond adds credibility to the premise, making the scam more effective.
In order to avoid becoming a victim of such a ploy, the BBB advises that people look for certain clues. If it asks for money, it’s a scam. No one should ever have to pay to participate in a sweepstakes. If it’s a contest that wasn’t ever entered, it’s a scam. There’s no way to a sweepstakes without entering. If it’s a foreign lottery, it’s a scam. The only legal lotteries in the United States are the official state-run lotteries.