How to Spot a Lottery or Sweepstakes Scam

Play It Safe Against Prize Scams

If you believe you have been a victim of a contest, lottery, or sweepstakes scam, please call us at (888) 599-2265, chat with us in our Online Banking portal, or visit What To Do if You Were Scammed | Consumer Advice ( for more information.

These days, who wouldn’t welcome the rare thrill of winning a contest, prize, or sweepstakes? In a world where reputable and illegitimate contests vie for your attention at the same time, it’s important to know the difference. Here are some helpful ways to keep luck on your side and defend against fraudulent offers and “bad actors.”


  • Are always free (Yep, FREE!)
  • Never require you to pay or buy anything to increase your odds of winning
  • Are legally required to tell you that:
    • entering is free
    • what the prizes are;
    • the value of the prizes
    • the odds of winning the prizes
    • how you can redeem a prize if you were to win one
  • A sweepstakes can only claim you’re a winner if you have actually won a prize; if a sweepstakes includes a fake check, it must be clearly marked as “non-negotiable” and as having “no cash value”


  • Require you to pay something up front (i.e., taxes, shipping and handling, or processing fees) to claim your prize—sometimes in the form of wired money, cash, gift cards, or cryptocurrency
  • Imply that payment will increase your odds of winning
  • Require you to provide your personal or financial information to receive your prize (very sketchy stuff; never do this)
  • Will seem very plausible; may even use recognizable names of companies, organizations, or government agencies to get you to let your guard down
  • Will create a sense of urgency so you’ll act now

Also, be wary of:

  • Notices mailed out by bulk rate. If you “won a prize” and the announcement was mailed out in bulk, be suspicious, because many other recipients also received that same notification, too
  • Winning a foreign lottery. It’s illegal for US citizens to play—let alone win— foreign lotteries. No one should offer to help you win a foreign lottery, either
  • Sharing personal information online. Limit what you are willing to share about yourself to get a discount code online, knowing that this information will be shared and most certainly carries the chance of being compromised. Never give out highly sensitive information, such as social security numbers or banking information
  • Emails with links from unknown sources. Scammers hope you’ll click on links in the emails they send you because when you do, they’ll steal your personal information or download malware onto your device. Don’t do that. Instead, just delete the message without clicking on the links or responding.

For more information on contests, prizes, and lottery scams, please visit:
Lookout for Lottery Scams |
Fake Prize, Sweepstakes, and Lottery Scams | Consumer Advice (