CONSUMER FIRST ALERT: You won a lottery you didn’t enter!

FTC numbers show that people are losing $300 million to fraud involving prizes
Updated: Jun. 4, 2023 at 6:00 AM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - A Consumer First Alert to help you spot prize scams.

Action 2 News viewers are asking: Did I really win this money?

There are legitimate contests that follow the law and give real prizes, but there are a lot of scams trying to get you to believe you won a lot of money or a new car. So how do you know the difference?

A letter a Manitowoc viewer shared with Action 2 News says they won an American Mega Lottery payment for $250,000. There’s also a check for $4,900 to help pay taxes and fees.

Before you follow any instructions or give out any personal information, the director of the Wisconsin Bureau of Consumer Protection, Michael Domke, says here’s what you should do first: “If they’re asking, ‘Hey, did I win this lottery?’ ask yourself, did you enter the lottery? You can’t win a lottery that you didn’t enter.”

“If you just inadvertently get mailed or unexpectedly get sent a check, don’t cash it,” Domke warned. “I’m going to say 99.9% of the time it’s going to be part of a scam, it’s going to be fraudulent.”

A viewer from New Franken shared another prize scam telling him he won $2.5 million and a Mercedes. He was told he needed to first buy two $500 gift cards from Walmart or Walgreens.

There were also some oddly worded lines in the letter: “If you would like our prize deliver present your winnings with the camera crew to advertise you on TV” and “By law to pay towards custom taxes and processing fees.”

Publishers Clearing House warns about these scams on its website. So does the state Bureau of Consumer Protection.

To spot prize scams in a letter, email, or social media:

  • Look at the quality of the writing; look for typos and misspellings
  • Do an online search with the name and put in the word “scam”
  • If you’re asked to pay money to get money, it’s a scam

A lot of it sounds like common sense, but people are losing money to the dream of being a winner. The most recent numbers from the Federal Trade Commission show people lost $300 million to fraud involving prizes -- an average loss of more than $900 per person.

If you want to check on a potential scam or file a complaint, you can call the Wisconsin Consumer Protection Hotline at (800) 422-7128.