We now know that after weeks of no winners, some lucky person in Maine won the massive 1.35 billion dollar jackpot prize.  You would think that now that there has been a winner declared, scams relating to this lottery drawing would cease, but that is definitely not the case.  Fourteen people who had all five numbers of the drawing, but did not pick the correct Mega Ball number got million dollar prizes and  other smaller prizes including $10,000 to people who had four numbers and the Mega Ball were also won.  What we are seeing now is scammers posing as the Lottery employees contacting people telling them that they have won these smaller prizes and then tricking them into paying “fees” and “taxes” to claim prizes they will never receive.

Over the years, I have written many times about lottery and sweepstakes scams, which continue to be one of the most popular and profitable scams for scammers.  Scammers use lottery and sweepstakes scams to cheat people out of millions of dollars each year by tricking their victims into sending money to the scammers after convincing their victims that they have won a lottery, but are required to pay some fees or taxes in order to collect their prize. It is hard to win any lottery. It is impossible to win one that you have not even entered and yet scam artists, the only criminals we refer to as artists have found that it is extremely lucrative to scam people by convincing them that they have won various lotteries.   With so  many people having played Mega Millions recently, people may be more susceptible to falling for the pitch of a lottery scammer who tells them they have won one of the lesser prizes.

Most lottery scams involve the victims being told that they need to pay taxes or administrative fees directly to the lottery sponsor; however no legitimate lottery requires you to do so.  As with many effective scams, the pitch of the scammer seems legitimate. Income taxes are due on lottery winnings, but with legitimate lotteries they are either deducted from the lottery winnings before you receive your prize or you are responsible for paying the taxes directly to the IRS. No legitimate lottery collects taxes on behalf of the IRS from lottery winners.  Other times, the scammer tell the “winners” that in order to collect their prizes, they need to pay administrative fees. Often, the victims are told to send the fees back to the scammer by prepaid gift cards or prepaid cards. Prepaid cards are a favorite of scammers because they are the equivalent of sending cash. They are impossible to stop or trace. Again, no legitimate lottery requires you to pay administrative fees in order to claim your prize.

As I have often told you, it is difficult to win a lottery you have entered.  It is impossible to win one that you have not even entered.  You should always be skeptical about being told that you have won a lottery you never entered.  If you did play Mega Millions, you should check with the Mega Millions website to confirm that you indeed did win one of the prizes.  Here is a link to the Mega Millions website that both provides the winning numbers for the jackpot as well as the prizes for lower payouts.

No legitimate lottery requires you to pay a processing fee or any other fee in order to claim your prize.  While it is true that income taxes are owed on lottery winnings, legitimate lotteries never collect tax money from winners.  They either deduct the taxes from the winnings or leave it up to the winners to pay their taxes directly to the IRS.

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