Seniors are being specifically targeted by scammers promoting fraudulent sweepstakes, lottery and prize schemes, warns a new report by the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
It estimates that these scams have bilked $117 million out of 500,000 Canadians and Americans alone in 2017 with the real dollar loss much higher.
And of that number of people, the majority were between 65 and 74, states the report entitled “Sweepstakes, Lottery and Prize Scams: A Better Business Bureau Study of How ‘Winners’ Lose Millions Through an Evolving Fraud”.
“Among that age group, people who recently experienced a serious negative life event, and who expect their income in the near future to remain steady or decline, are even more likely to be victimized,” the report adds.
Direct mail, cold calling, social media, even text messages and smartphone pop-ups, indicates the BBB in warning consumers to be on guard.
Most of the fraud schemes originate in Jamaica, Costa Rica and Nigeria.
The BBB report urges law enforcement agencies worldwide to take more steps to investigate and prosecute those behind the schemes.
It also urges Facebook and other social media platforms to take steps to weed out fake, fraudulent profiles and make fraud reporting easier.
“The law requires you to purchase a ticket to play the lottery, but a legitimate lottery or sweepstakes will never ask its winners to wire money to claim the prize,” says Evan Kelly, senior Communications Advisor for BBB serving Mainland BC. “It’s heartbreaking that these fraudsters are continually finding new ways to prey on older people who are dreaming of a big win or a financial windfall in their final years.”
The BBB offers the following tips for consumers to avoid being caught in lottery or sweepstakes fraud:
* True lotteries or sweepstakes don’t ask for money. If they want money for taxes, themselves, or a third party, they are most likely crooks.
* Ask yourself – did you enter the lottery in the first place? Call the lottery or sweepstakes company directly to see if you actually won.
* Do an internet search of the company, name, or phone number of the person who contacted you.
* Law enforcement does not call and award prizes.
* Talk to a trusted family member or your bank. They may be able to help you stay in control of your money in the face of fraudster pressure.