By Robb Hicken/ BBB’s chief storyteller
Meridian resident Robert Sumner knows there is no chance of winning an international lottery or sweepstakes. In fact, he’s first to tell you it’s against the law in the United States.
“But that doesn’t stop them from sending me applications,” he says.
Sumner dropped off a handful of requests from companies that promised to track his international lottery and sweepstake winnings, for a nominal fee – $20. The promised return was for $10 million to $1.8 million in declared disbursements. The registry, as the three letters declared were in Australia, China and Hong Kong. All had disclaimers that this was not an official notification of winning, but rather a “research and sweepstakes entry tracking and placing corporation” that researches available sweepstakes, contests and other potential prize opportunities, assess eligibility, and enter all eligible participants — “upon receipt of the requested processing fee from you.”
BBB cautions residents in the Snake River Region to not allow enticing dollar signs to obstruct common sense.
If you are being directed to wire money, send a check, provide access to your bank account or credit card numbers or send personal financial information to claim your winnings, contact your BBB. This is trying to steal your money or identity, by a person masquerading as a lottery official.
If you have won a legitimate, legal lottery, you do not have to pay taxes, custom fees, shipping or handling or any other fee before receiving your winnings.
In addition, it is illegal to take part in a foreign lottery through U.S. mail.
BBB offers a series of tips on avoiding international lottery scams. Here’s key advice:
- The only lotteries that are legal in the United States are official state-run lotteries.
- Foreign lotteries violate U.S. Postal Service statues, though they may not violate the statutes of the country where they originate.
- Foreign lottery solicitations should be brought to the attention of the U.S. Postal Service.
BBB has established that a number of foreign lotteries really start in Canada. Many telemarketers claim to be from outside of North America, but consumers are directed to contact a Canadian phone number for instructions in how to claim a prize.
Just remember, before being tempted to take the bait, ask yourself, if the organization has the money to write a check for the consumer, why have the extra step of sending the money to the consumer then having it returned? NEVER pay money to win a sweepstakes. Legitimate prizes do not come with processing fees. Taxes are paid directly to the Internal Revenue Service after winnings are collected.