If someone calls to say you've a won sweepstakes that you never registered for, don't fall for it.
An elderly woman in South Florida lost $9,500 to scammers who told her on the phone that she needed to pay $20,000 in taxes in order to claim a sweepstakes prize totaling more than $1 million, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports. The 70-year-old woman sent two personal checks to an address that the caller had said was for the IRS.
The scam was uncovered by an annuity holder, who became suspicious and contacted the police after the elderly woman tried to cash out an annuity, according to the Sun-Sentinel. The woman lives alone on just $1,500 per month.
Jeff Atwater, Florida's chief financial officer, said in a statement that he is proud that the police prevented the victim from "giving away her life savings to these scam artists."
Have you ever been contacted by a scam artist claiming you won a prize? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org
Real lotteries do not ask for money upfront, and it should be a "red flag" if you are told that you've won a lottery that you never registered for, Atwater's press release noted.
Also, don't trust strangers. Anyone that you don't know who is offering you free money probably is lying to you. Don't send money to anyone you don't know.
The elderly woman in South Florida is not the only person who has fallen for a sweepstakes scam. A woman in Plymouth, Massachusetts, recently sent nearly $500 in Walmart gift cards to scammers who had convinced her she had won a sweepstakes, according to Wicked Local.
Some scammers do their work in person. A scammer told a victim at a Goodwill store in Riverside, California, earlier this month that she had a winning lottery ticket, according to ABC 7 News. She offered to share part of the jackpot if the victim gave some cash upfront. The victim said yes.
Similar scams are also common by mail. A man in Cedar Grove, New Jersey, recently received a letter in the mail telling him he had won $450,000, according to Patch. It included a fraudulent check to help pay for a $4,100 processing fee. He did not fall for the scam and instead told the police.
A woman in St. Cloud, Minnesota, recently received a letter saying she had won $2.1 million, but that she needed to pay a $34.99 processing fee, according to AM 1240 WJON.