Even in this age of igaming and sports betting, playing the lottery remains the most popular and widespread form of gambling. Online platforms have opened up the biggest lotteries, such as the Powerball and Mega Millions, to global audiences, while there are literally hundreds of smaller national and regional lotteries being drawn every day throughout the world.
The reason for their popularity goes beyond that remote possibility of becoming a multi-millionaire, although of course, we all like to dream. The thing with lotteries is that they also raise money for thousands of worthy causes every year, so even if yours is not a winning ticket, you know the money you spent has not gone to waste.
It sounds like an ideal set up, but there is a downside. An activity that attracts millions of participants and involves online transactions that add up to billions of dollars is inevitably a magnet for criminals and fraudsters. Lottery scams are commonplace, but if you follow some basic tips, you can ensure you and your loved ones can play in safety.
Use a recognized platform
One thing should be very obvious from the above. Lotteries are big business, so there is no need to be engaging with shady, back street dealers, either physically or online. Even if you are looking to play a lottery in an overseas territory, there are major platforms like LottoGo that provide access to lotteries across America, Europe, and even Australia.
You’ve got to be in it to win it
Receiving an email, letter or text message telling you you’ve won a large sum of money is exciting. But think logically. To win in a lottery, you have to have bought a ticket in the first place. If you haven’t, then you can’t have won anything, and someone is trying to scam you, it is that simple.
Examine the notification carefully
Even if you bought a ticket, examine any winning notification critically. If it arrived by email, check the sender’s address – lotteries do not notify winners by sending emails from anonymous-looking Gmail or yahoo accounts. If you received a text message, check the number. If it starts 876, that means the text came from Jamaica, which is where many lottery scams originate. In all cases, check the communication for grammatical and spelling errors, which are often the biggest giveaway of a scam.
Never send money
It sounds obvious, but scammers are experts in providing plausible-sounding reasons you need to send them money in order to “release the winnings.” These might include alleged bank charges or transaction fees. However, the golden rule is that if a stranger has asked for money, they have just shown their hand and revealed themselves as a scammer.
What if you’ve been scammed?
If you are reading this and have that sinking feeling that you’ve been scammed already, the most important thing is to report it quickly. First, notify your bank or credit card to see if they can stop or retrieve your money. Then check out this website to report the scammers to the relevant government authority.