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Consumer Reports Webwatch: Skip the Jackpot

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service offer several tips to avoid getting suckered by fake-lottery scams:

  • Don’t enter an online contest unless you’re sure the company that runs it is legitimate, and even then, read their privacy policy to see if your information will be sold to marketers. “Some scammers run contests to get additional names,” says the FTC’s Charles Harwood.
  • Watch out for “phishing” sites that bear brand-name companies’ logos but request very sensitive personal information, such as bank account or Social Security numbers. “A bogus site that looks very official may have an option that says, ‘I would like to be paid by a bank transfer’ and ask for your account number,” says Harwood.
  • Never make advance payments to receive a “prize” in a sweepstakes.
  • Don’t provide personal or financial information online, especially for a contest you never entered.
  • Ignore contests that pressure you into responding right away.
  • Remember: Federal law prohibits mailing payments to purchase any ticket, share, or chance in a foreign lottery.