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If you are the victim of a lottery, Sweepstakes, or other prize winning notice scam mentioned in this article, go here: What to do and how to do it


If you have

  • been arrested,

  • know you are facing arrest,

  • or are under formal investigation for this or any other scam:

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About Lottery and Other Prize Winning Notifications: Truth vs. Scam

Scammers send out fake prize winning letters by the thousands every day to steal your money, your personal information, and to involve you in money laundering.  They use the fact that few people know that to win a prize you have to enter a drawing.  They use the fact that many people are so desperate for money that they will jump at any surprise income without asking questions.

This page shows you how to spot prize winning notification scams so you can keep yourself out of debt and out of jail.


Did I win a lottery?

I received a check in a lottery winning notification letter - what do I do with it?

What to do if:  Gives instructions for most of the problems that happen to lottery scam victims

WARNING!  You are at severe risk of Identity Theft and

 of being used for money laundering.

The Identity Theft Prevention List << EVERYBODY MUST GO HERE (This will open in a new window)

In all these scams, Identity Theft is a major element and you are at serious risk.  We cannot stress how devastating Identity Theft will be for you, nor how valuable your personal information is to the scammers - even if you have bad credit your identity is sold to illegal aliens and drug runners - nor how determined they are to acquire even a small amount of personal information from you and your computer.

Money Laundering: You may be sent counterfeit checks or money orders.  Either immediately or as a follow up, you will be instructed to wire off a large portion of the money to a 3rd party.  This is money laundering. 

You can be arrested for money laundering, you can be arrested for passing a counterfeit check or money order.  Read How to Really Verify a Check or Money Order.

Did I win a lottery?

  1. Scam: You receive a winning lottery notification letter from a lottery company name that is not known to you , and from a lottery company that does not send you junk mail for both your email inbox and the surface mail on a regular basis.

  2.  Scam: You received an email or a letter by surface mail telling you that have have won a lottery in a foreign country or in a country where you do not reside.  Unless you purchase a lottery ticket while visiting another state or country, you can only enter lotteries that are run and operated in the country, state, or province in which you reside.

    Away from home: if you are visiting a country as a tourist and purchase a lottery ticket at a local ticket vendor shop, and your number is a winning number, you must personally redeem that ticket at a ticket vendor's shop in that country.  No one else can redeem it for you: not a relative, not an agent, not an attorney, no one.  You can give the winning ticket to a resident in that country who can then redeem it as his or her own, and that person will then be fully responsible for any and all taxes that must be paid to that country's government.

    Also, those on resident visas often must pay taxes to the country in which they reside in addition to taxes owed to their native country.  However, in each instance taxes are paid directly to and ONLY to those governments.

    If you read the Terms and Conditions or Agreement located on every legitimate lottery web page, you will see that registration and ticket purchases are limited to residents of the sponsor country.

    Only a lottery country's residents may register on the lottery's web site and buy tickets.

    Here are language translation tools for you to use to translate and read the Terms and Conditions:

    Google Language Tool,

    InterTran (scroll down the page to translation box),

    Langenburg (offers a variety of language translation tools). 

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  3. Scam: There are no random drawings of email addresses, cell phone numbers, mobile phone numbers or home phone numbers.

  4. Scam: You cannot be entered into a lottery by a survey company. 

  5. Scam: There is no such thing as a random lottery, email lottery, web lottery, international lottery, or Internet lottery.

  6. Scam: There is no such thing as a free lottery.  Lotteries are not free - in order to win, you must buy a ticket.  The amount that one can win - the jackpot - is ONLY accumulated from the sale of lottery tickets.

  7. Counterfeit drafts & money orders: Winning jackpots are paid by the lottery company.  You cannot win a lottery that is paid by another company. The name on the check must be the same as the lottery you played.  If you win the California Lottery, the winning check is not drawn on Bill's Plumbing and Heating in Atlanta, Georgia.  The account name on the check is California Lottery.  A winning check drawn on any account other than the lottery company is counterfeit!  Read How to Really Verify a Check or Money Order.

  8. Counterfeit drafts & money orders: Sweepstakes prizes are paid by the Sweepstakes company.  If you win the Publisher's Clearing House Sweepstakes, the check is not drawn on Ima Big Insurance Company.  The check says Publisher's Clearing House. A winning Sweepstakes check drawn on any account other than the Sweepstakes company is a counterfeit!  Read How to Really Verify a Check or Money Order.

  9. Counterfeit drafts & money orders: Credit Card Rewards Programs and other Rewards Programs DO NOT PAY PRIZE MONEY.  Rewards Programs are discount programs where you accumulate purchase points that allow you to buy products at a discounted rate.  If you receive a winning prize check because you won a Rewards Program, it is a counterfeit!  Read How to Really Verify a Check or Money Order.

  10. Scam: Your letter says that the lottery was funded by one or more wealthy individuals or large corporations.  Wealthy individuals and companies DO NOT operate lotteries or donate money to lotteries.  By law, lotteries may only build winning amounts from the sale of tickets.  This is the same in every country.  , it is a scam.

  11. When you register with an online lottery web site such as El Gordo (a Spanish lottery open to nonresidents), you must provide your name, street address, email address, telephone number, and a valid credit card number to buy tickets, and you must chose a username and password.  You are then given your own secure area where you can verify your winnings and buy tickets for different lottery games.  NO U.S. LOTTERY TICKETS CAN BE PURCHASED ONLINE.

    Your email box and street mail box will immediately begin filling with emails and junk mail from the lottery company telling you about new games, amounts to be won, jackpots, and the names of those who have won in the past.  In other words, promotional material to urge you to buy tickets. 

    Lottery information sites: At any time of the day or night, 365 days a year, you can log in to your registered on line account to see if you have won any of your country's lottery games.


    US RESIDENTS: You may buy a state's lottery tickets at any retail store that sells lottery tickets within that state, and you may buy Multi-State Lottery game tickets at most retail outlets that sell lottery tickets ( - Powerball, etc.).  

    BUT YOU MAY NOT ENTER FOREIGN LOTTERIES: It is illegal for US Citizens to enter foreign lotteries and engage in cross-border / offshore gambling: Federal Statute - TITLE 18 - CRIMES AND CRIMINAL PROCEDURE PART I - CRIMES


    WARNING: Services that offer to purchase lottery tickets on your behalf are not regulated by any state, federal, or national government oversight agency.  There is no guarantee that any ticket will be purchased in your name, nor if any such ticket is a winning ticket, that you will ever see the money.

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  12. Scam: The letter you have received tells you that your winnings are confidential.  The fact that you have won a lottery or Sweepstakes is never, ever a secret.  On the contrary, advertising your winnings is part of the conditions under which you buy a ticket at your local store or enter a Sweepstakes.  Prize drawing companies want everyone to know who has won so that more people will buy tickets.  Sweepstakes (marketing companies) want everyone to know you have won so that more people will enter the Sweepstakes (Publisher's Clearing House is an excellent example).

  13. Lottery companies do not use agents.  There is no reason and there is no need for them to do so.  If your letter states that you must contact a claims agent or a person of any other title at a location other than that of the lottery company, it is a scam.  All legitimate lottery companies and marketing companies for Sweepstakes have verifiable street addresses and listed telephone numbers.

  14. Scam: You are told you must pay fees of some kindThe only money you ever owe for winning a prize is to your own country for income taxes, and those must be paid directly to your own country's government - never EVER to anyone else.  There are no such fees as Customs Fees, Anti-Terrorist Fees, attorney's fees, nor any other kind of fees or charges. 

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  15. Scam: Your letter says that you have unclaimed winnings for a lottery you never heard of or never entered.

    There is no such thing as unclaimed winnings as described in lottery winning letters and emails.  No lottery ever EVER hunts for those who do not claim their winnings by presenting their ticket.  No Sweepstakes management company ever hunts for those who do not claim their winnings.  Unclaimed winnings go back into the pot.  No lottery company or Sweepstakes company will ever spend the money required to hunt down a lottery winner. 

    When you buy a lottery ticket at a local store, you do not list your name and address anywhere.  It is your own responsibility to check the winning numbers against your ticket. 

    When you buy a lottery ticket on the Internet, you provide your name and address and the lottery company knows how to contact you and doesn't need to conduct any kind of search.

  16. Scam: Your letter states that your winnings will be sent by international courier, will be sent in cash, and has to go through customs.  That is never, ever true of any winnings anywhere.

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I received a lottery winning notification with a check - what do I do with it?

  1. Counterfeit drafts & money orders: There is no such thing as receiving only part of your winnings where you are instructed to send a portion to anyone by Western Union or MoneyGram or bank-to-bank wire. Go here IMMEDIATELY:

  2. Lottery winning checks are only sent out by the actual lottery company, and are drawn on a lottery company account.  The checks have the name of the lottery on them, not someone else's name. 

    Lottery companies want you to display your winnings with the name of the lottery on the check in big letters.  They want you to frame a copy of the check.  They may even send you the actual check once it has gone back to them, just so you can show everyone what lottery you played and won.

    The lottery name on the check is advertising to get more people to buy tickets.  It's good business.

    The same goes for the envelope - the name of the lottery is in bold letters, the envelope comes directly from the lottery company and shows the lottery company's address.  This address can be verified.

    The same goes for any letters and promotional material in the envelope - all will prominently display the name of the lottery company with contact information that can be independently verified.

    Independently verified means that you get your information from another source, NOT by calling the phone numbers listed in the letter or on any check you may receive.  If it is a scam, those numbers will be for a scammer who will tell you whatever you want to hear, so don't call the number on the letter or email or check.

  3. Scam: You receive a check for lottery winnings and it is not directly from the lottery company itself.



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