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Imagine getting a call from someone who says they work with the government. They inform you that you have won the lottery! All you have to do is pay a small processing fee to collect your winnings.

This is what most lottery scams sound like and sadly, many consumers still fall for them. A Cape Cod woman was recently indicted for defrauding consumers out of thousands of dollars as part of a lottery scam. She convinced one consumer to shell out over $23,000! Callers often claim that a temporary bond for the government is required to process your prize. In other scenarios, the scammer claims you must front the taxes before you receive your winnings. If you win the lottery, you will never be required to pay a fee to collect a payment if you win the lottery and you do not need to transfer money or send a check to the government to account for taxes.

Don’t be fooled! Unless you are a Lottery season ticket subscriber, the Massachusetts State Lottery does not know who you are, and therefore would be unable to contact you. In every instance, the winner has to come forward to collect their prize, not the other way around. The easiest way to spot the scam is if you never participated in the lottery. As nice as it may sound, you will not receive prize money from a lottery that you did not enter.

If you are solicited to participate in a foreign country’s lottery, or notified that you’ve won the lottery in another country, be warned! It is illegal to participate by phone or mail in a foreign lottery and as with lotteries in the United States, you can’t win something you didn’t participate in!

Another popular lottery scam occurs when someone wins a large prize. In 2017, a Massachusetts resident won a $758.7 million prize, the second-largest U.S. lottery prize. After she came forward, however, fake accounts spread across social media. Posing as the winner, they promised to give out a sum of money for each retweet or share. Fake accounts such as these even find photos of the winner to make them seem more legitimate. Before you like or share a post similar to this, use common sense to think of the logistics required to try and reimburse thousands of strangers. It is best to report any fake accounts that you come across.

Quick internet research can often indicate something is a scam and can save you from getting conned. Fake lottery schemes can cost consumers thousands of dollars so it’s best to alert local and national authorities in order to help prevent these scams from circulating and hurting other consumers. You should file a complaint on the Federal Trade Commission’s website. Additionally, you should report the scam to your local police department, our Office and the Attorney General’s Office. You may also want to contact the Massachusetts State Lottery if you have any questions or concerns about the process.

If you have additional questions, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation by calling our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757, Monday through Friday, from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow the Office on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer. The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation along with its five agencies work together to achieve two goals: to protect and empower consumers through advocacy and education, and to ensure a fair playing field for Massachusetts businesses. The Office also oversees the state’s Lemon Laws and Arbitration Program, Data Breach reporting, Home Improvement Contractor Programs and the MA Do Not Call Registry.

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