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Imagine you open your inbox and find an extremely convincing e-mail announcing your big lottery win! You excitedly open the e-mail, and fill out the few simple “verification” questions, that will of course identify that you are indeed the rightful winner and will speed the process of you collecting your winnings. Is this the best day of your life? Hardly; unfortunately you have just been scammed and there are many repercussions for giving someone your vital personal information. These types of lottery scams are now becoming commonplace and it is important to know how to identify them and protect yourself.

These scammers are looking for very specific information such as your name, address, phone number, date of birth, Social Security number, bank or credit card numbers, and anything else they can use to defraud you. These people will use and sell your pertinent personal information and can do serious damage to your credit, your bank account, and your life. If you feel you have been the victim of fraud you should contact the Federal Trade Commission as well as your local police department and all of your creditors. There are several ways to protect you from this type of fraud.

The first is to absolutely always delete suspicious e-mails, especially anything that asks for personal information of any kind. This is important because the lottery absolutely does not issue “winning notifications” by e-mail or mail. The only way to claim a winning lottery prize is upon presentation of a winning lottery ticket that was purchased from an authorized lottery retailer. These retailers cannot redeem tickets over the Internet and only conduct business within the state in which they are licensed. This means that to claim a winning ticket, you must have previously bought a ticket from an authorized retailer and can only confirm your winning numbers on that ticket. It is then your responsibility to submit a claim for your winning ticket. No one will contact you with instructions, and especially not via mail or e-mail. It is important to note that no redemption of tickets can be done online.

The next way to protect yourself from a lottery scam is by never being fooled into giving out your personal information. Many of these dangerous lottery scams will provide a “claim form” that may illegally use the lottery logo. Absolutely never provide personal information such as your date of birth, credit card information, bank account numbers, or Social Security number. These Internet claim forms can look very convincing and require this personal information before authorizing your supposed win. However, once this information is given, it is too late. You will soon discover that this was all a scam and your personal information is no longer protected. This is not now lottery claims are made and all attempts to gain your personal information are scams.

Another way these lottery scammers try to get you is by asking for “small” upfront fees to cover expenses that they claim are associated with the delivery of the “winning prizes.” Never, ever, send money. You will not get this money back, and there is virtually nothing authorities can do to recover your losses. You are usually asked for these fees after exchanging in a dialogue with the scammer about your fraudulent lottery claim. These people can be very convincing and may pressure you into sending money by telling you that you cannot make your big claim without doing this. They may tell you that you are throwing away your win by not sending the “necessary” fees. Do not believe any of this and never send money of any kind. Claiming a winning lottery ticket does not cost money.

The fourth tip for avoiding online lottery fraud is to be proactive about your online safety and security. These scammers will impersonate all kinds of businesses and can be very convincing. It is ultimately up to you to protect your personal information from these types of attacks.

The last way to protect yourself and others is to report any suspicion of fraud to the Federal Trade Commission and to warn others about the dangers of online lottery fraud. These dangerous people can steal your information, your money, and your identity and wouldn’t be in business if we all take steps to stop their illegal activity.

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