Your phone beeps and you open a delightful text. You’ve just won $3 million dollars in a prize! Is it your lucky day or are you being scammed? We hate to tell you, but it’s most likely a scam.
Unexpected money scams aren’t new. They promise you lots of money or big prizes in the form of long-lost inheritances, million-dollar lottery or sweepstakes wins, or fabulous prizes like cars, holidays and iPads.
But don’t be fooled – it’s all fake! They just want to trick you into handing over your money or your bank account information.
Here are some tips on how to spot an unexpected money, prize or lottery scams
What are unexpected money scams?
Unexpected money scams are when you receive a text, email, letter or social media message out of the blue, advising that you’ve won a lot of money or a fantastic prize in a lottery or competition you don’t even remember entering.
To claim your money or prize, you may be asked to:
- Pay a fee to cover “taxes” or shipping and handling (the fees will mysteriously mount up, stalling your supposed payment”)
- Provide your personal details to prove you are the correct winner (your information will be used to steal your identity or access your bank accounts).
- Share bank account details so the prize can be sent to you (they will drain your account of all your money).
- Click on a link to find out more information (you will be asked to provide personal or financial information or unknowingly have malware installed on your device).
- Call a phone number to claim your money (they will collect a premium rate on the phone number and try to keep you on the line to clock up a massive charge).
What these scammers will do
- Tell you out of the blue you are owed money, you’ve won the lottery, have been left money or you’ve won a prize!
- They’ll sometimes share a tragic story with you about something that has happened to them or their family and will ask to transfer money to your account for safekeeping.
- Ask for your personal details and bank account information to send you the money (don’t hand them over!)
- Ask for upfront payments of fees or taxes to “release” the money you are owed.
- Sometimes ask you to call a phone number starting with “19” (a mobile premium service), which then charges you premium cost that’s super expensive.
- The prize is for a lottery or competition that you didn’t even enter or have never heard of.
- You have to pay money, taxes or fees upfront to receive your prize or release your money.
- They’ve used clickbait phrases like “Last chance to claim your prize” or “You are the lucky winner”, “Congratulations, lottery winner”.
- They claim they’re from the government or a reputable international bank or business.
- They mention courts and lawyers and that you have to give them information to prove your identity to make a claim.
- They are pressuring you to act quickly to claim your prize
- The don’t tell you in the text or email what you’ve won – you have to click on a link to find out (don’t, it will be a trick to steal your personal and banking information).
What you can do
- Never give strangers your bank details, personal information or an upfront payment.
- Ignore and delete any emails, messages or texts that sound suspicious.
- Don’t click on links in “pop-up” ads that appear on your screen asking you to claim your prize. Invest in a pop-up blocker for your browser to stop the accidental clicks too.
- Conduct an online search using the exact wording in the message or email to see if it’s a scam.
- Don’t call or text numbers you don’t know.
- Stop and ask yourself if you were expecting a payment, know the person or company offering it or entered that lottery or competition.
- Follow your gut instinct on whether the message looks and sounds official and legitimate.
A few hard truths
- There are no get-rich-quick schemes out there that can make you wealthy.
- You can’t win a lottery or prize that you haven’t entered. If only!
- You’re extremely unlikely to receive an inheritance from someone you’ve never heard of.
- You don’t need to pay a fee to collect legitimate lottery winnings.