The Better Business Bureau (BBB) reports that seniors continue to be disproportionately affected by sweepstakes, lottery and prize scams, losing millions of dollars since the BBB released an in-depth investigative study of these specific scams in 2018.

“Of the 4,417 sweepstakes and lottery scams reported to BBB Scam Tracker since 2018, nearly half came from victims over the age of 65,” reads the report from BBB.

“This age group lost $3.33 million of the $4.1 million reported.”

Many lottery and sweepstakes scams have been found to originate in Jamaica, and this continues to be true. Fraudsters may attempt to engage victims by phone, email, social media or Canada Post. They may pose as representatives of legitimate sounding organizations such as the “Canadian Gaming and Lottery Commission” or International Gaming Commission”, however neither of these actually exist.

Scammers are adaptive, and have updated their tactics to reflect the current COVID-19 pandemic. Some will claim a potential delay in prize delivery, or discuss COVID-19 safety precautions surrounding the delivery.

Victims are often encouraged to mail cash to scammers who will offer fake prizes in return such as luxury cars, laptops and other high-end merchandise, or even a greater cash return than what was requested of the victim.

“People who have become victims of sweepstakes scams are likely to be contacted again by scammers,” said the BBB.

“Many lottery scam victims keep sending money for weeks or months, thinking that each step is the last one before they get their winnings.”

Scammers will target people regardless of their location, which means even residents of small towns who may not be victimized by door to door scams, must be vigilant in detecting phone or online scams.

A resident of Kelowna made a report to the BBB regarding a scam that was carried out against her father.

“A man named John King called my elderly father saying that he won $5 million and a car but UPS would need $500 to deliver,” said the Kelowna resident.

“I called back the number. There was no answering machine, but it was a cell phone that went straight to voice mail. I left a message saying not to contact us again. My dad said John King called back while I was away and told him that he understands that his daughter doesn’t want him taking these calls and that he should not let me stop him from claiming what is his because I don’t make his decisions. My father says he doesn’t sound like a scammer because he was respectful and listened to everything he said, plus assured him the money would go straight to UPS. So, he sent him the $500 plus shared lots of personal information with him. He still refuses to believe it’s a scam and is still waiting for his prize”.

The BBB lists several ‘red flags’ that may indicate you are being contacted by a scammer and not a legitimate organization, and what you can do to find out for sure.

  • You’ve won a prize in a contest you did not actually enter
  • True sweepstakes and lotteries do not ask for money, if you are being asked for money for the caller, taxes, or a third party, you are likely being scammed
  • Law enforcement officials will not call and award prizes
  • Do an internet search of the company, name or phone number of the person who contacted you
  • Phone the company the caller claims to represent directly
  • Call the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries or the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC), either will be able to tell you if you’ve truly won a lottery prize.