Now more than ever, scams are in abundance on the internet. And it’s incredibly easy to fall prey to one if you don’t catch the signs early enough. Even people who play the lottery have fallen victim to these criminal acts in the past, believing that they have won large sums of cash, have then been asked to provide personal banking information to a meticulously crafty individual or fake entity. The next minute, they have the entire contents of their account emptied.

With ad blockers, blacklisted number directories, and the sophisticated online security we have in place, it should be much more difficult to get away with online fraud and scams these days. So why is it still happening to so many people? 

Easy Targets

Detailed studies indicate that certain demographics are more susceptible to lottery scams. These groups include the elderly, those with financial problems, the socially inept, gamblers with potential addictions and impulsive tendencies, and people with a general lack of understanding about how technology works. When you look at it from that angle, it’s clear to see the potential in how each of these profiles could be in for a successful hustle: 

  • Older people are extremely vulnerable in these situations. Mostly because they may not be used to the way modern technology works or know what to look out for when something seems a bit fishy. 
  • A person facing financial hardship could jump at the idea of something that promises to resolve their money problems, particularly in times of desperation.
  • A gambling addict is unlikely to make any effort to restrain themselves gambling or apply any sense of logic to their playing decisions. If they gamble at casinos frequently, they could believe that the win came from a legit website which they were already a member of. 

Great Persuasion Skills 

The most successful fraudsters are exceptionally well trained at manipulation and psychology, and will often use this to their advantage when they’re attempting to scam someone. This can be in the way they notify the recipient that they “won” the lottery through a highly likable agent on the phone,  a carefully-crafted campaign through social media or similar channels, or a highly convincing email with official language, letterheads and logos. 

Some scammers even overload these emails with details of things like the date the lottery took place, the ticket number, tax and insurance information, plus unique identification numbers – all with the intention of making the customer feel reassured about its authenticity and more eager to claim their once-in-a-lifetime “prize.” 

Offers for Foreign Lotteries

Another way scammers try to con people is through offering to enter them into a foreign lottery exclusively. Usually, this will also be in the form of an email that promises the victim will be guaranteed the win, or something to inform them they’ve already won it. Most of the time they’ll also be asked to pay a one-off fee to cover the taxes and insurance before they can claim their winnings. 

Foreign lottery tickets sold by mail is a complete violation of the law in the U.S., yet it remains the most statistically successful lottery scam, estimated to cost American citizens more than $120 million in collective losses every year. Some people who end up paying these fees and costs have also gone on to lose further money from having their bank details leaked.

How Genuine Lotteries Determine Winners

A real lottery can only ever be played and won if a person has purchased a valid lottery ticket. There are also set processes in place for how they contact and verify a winner, so you should never believe something which confirms you will get your money immediately after providing personal information. 

A legitimate lottery will never ask you for a fee or advanced payment in order to claim your win either. Even if you have entered the lottery and think it could be the real deal, there will always be detailed terms and conditions on a legit site for claiming the prize or in the small print on the ticket itself.

Spotting the Red Flags

Although some scammers are highly skilled at making their hustle look completely legit, most of them are not and will slip up on a lot of details that are designed to trick the victim. These can be things like:  

  1. strange-looking email addresses
  2. spelling mistakes and typos in text
  3. different currencies
  4. important missing links
  5. documents and messages that pressure too much for the person’s information. 


No legal lottery or casino entity will ever demand your banking details upfront without completing a proper verification process first. And sometimes this process can take days! In addition, a legal lottery will only ever determine winners by the tickets purchased and not via any kind of “email draw.”

A scam lottery email will also likely ask the victim not to declare their win to any other person or entity in order to keep others from identifying it as an illegal source. 

Protecting Yourself

While you may play the lottery frequently and there is always the possibility it could be a genuine win, it would never be in the ways mentioned above. Any email notification that confirms you have won the lottery should be immediately deemed as suspicious, as it should in any other format that asks you to hand over your banking details, pay any upfront costs or fees, or keep the news of your win or sweepstakes confidential. 

The best way to keep yourself safe is to always make a note of which lottery you entered, the date and time you entered, the day of the draw, the selected numbers, the Terms & Conditions of the game, and any other important info that a real lottery will ask for.

And if you’ve fallen victim to a lottery or internet scam already, you can report it to the International Consumer Protection Enforcement Network, which governs lottery-based agencies in over 60 countries. You can also visit the FTC’s Complaint Assistant for detailed overviews of prize, lottery and sweepstakes scams to help you recognize and avoid the signs in the future.


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Richard Holmes was born in Tampa, Florida and studied computer science at Pensacola Christian College in Pensacola Florida. A devout Baptist, volunteer Sunday School teacher and online gaming fan, Richard works as a part-time systems administrator at Baptist Hospital and part-time professional blogger specializing in statistics, probability and computer science issues. He is an ardent believer in the future of artificial intelligence as a tool for transforming human society for the better, particularly in the area of health care and modern medicine. A chess player, and competitive online gamer Richard actively participates on online gaming tournaments in his free time.