Sections on this page
- How the Fake Lottery Tickets Scam Works
- How to Beat and Avoid Being Scammed by Fake Lottery Tickets
- Examples of Fake Lottery Ticket Scams
- Have You Bought Fake Lottery Tickets?
- Frequently Asked Questions
Steering clear of fake lottery tickets is as simple as buying tickets from official sellers only. Don't believe anyone who says they have a winning lottery ticket and will sell it to you or give you some of the winnings. As tempting as it may be to spend a little to get a lot, it's more often than not a scam.
How the Fake Lottery Tickets Scam Works
You’re just about to walk into the convenience store when someone outside asks for your attention. They have a winning lottery ticket, but they’re unable to cash it in, so they offer to sell it to you—for a fraction of the prize value. It may sound exciting, but don’t be fooled by fake lottery tickets: This is anything but your lucky day.
This is the setup of a fake lottery ticket scam that’s already tricked hundreds of people. Yet if you’re careful and conscious of fake lottery tickets, you can avoid being the next victim.
Someone Approaches You With a Winning Lottery Ticket
The lottery scam starts when you’re approached by someone, whether on the corner of a busy street, in the parking lot, or somewhere else they feel they might get your attention.
The scammer tells you he or she is holding a winning lottery ticket, but they’re unable to cash it in for one reason or another.
That’s where you come in.
The Scammer Asks You To Help Cash In the Winning Ticket
The scammer may ask you to cover some “deposit fee” required for cashing in their winning ticket. They will, of course, reimburse you or even give you more money once they collect their prize.
Or they may ask you to take the ticket off their hands entirely, selling it for a price much lower than its prize-winning value.
Or Maybe You’re Just Sold a Lottery Ticket
Sometimes, scammers skip out on the story entirely and try to sell you the lottery ticket.
They’ll still tell you it’s a winner—and that is still a lie—but for whatever reason, they’re willing to part with the goods for a relatively reasonable price.
You Find Out the Ticket’s a Fraud
Excited, you take the ticket to the closest place you can cash it in, only to find out it’s a fraud. The scammer is nowhere to be found—they’ve taken off with your money.
How to Beat and Avoid Being Scammed by Fake Lottery Tickets
The best way to beat this scam is to say, "No." Remind yourself that things that seem too good to be true almost always are, and walk away.
If you do decide to hear the person out, you can:
- Make the transaction at a licensed lottery vendor location. This way, you can check the validity of the ticket immediately.
- Don’t pay for the ticket until you confirm it’s real (and winning).
- You may be able to search for official lottery ticket seller locations online.
- Check the ticket for any irregularities.
- If it’s a lottery drawing ticket, check the date and the numbers against those that won on the same date. Make sure the numbers are in the correct sequence, too. (You should be able to look up winning numbers online.)
- If it’s a scratch-off, read the rules carefully and make sure everything adds up accurately.
Don’t ever hand over any money until you’ve confirmed the ticket is legit and has the winning numbers. The best practice is simply to avoid buying lottery tickets from non-licensed vendors.
Still, many fakes are close to perfect and would be able to pass these inspections. You won’t truly know if a lottery ticket is fake until someone official scans the barcode.
And in many places, selling things on the street without a license is illegal. That’s why it’s truly best to walk away from anyone approaching you with something to buy, no matter what it is.
Examples of Fake Lottery Ticket Scams
Scammers have come up with several different stories to hawk fake winning lottery tickets to people. They may tell you that they don’t have a valid bank account and therefore would have nowhere to put the money once they win.
They may tell you there’s a fee for cashing in the ticket that they can’t afford and ask you to front them the money for that.
They may make up some other legal reason for being unable to claim the prize.
The fee tactic already worked well for one would-be scammer in California, now sentenced to 20 years in prison. And reports in Connecticut have attributed a rash of fake winning lottery ticket purchases to scammers quoting “a variety of reasons” why they can’t personally cash in the winnings.
Have You Bought Fake Lottery Tickets?
Selling things, including lottery tickets, on the street without a license is against the law.
If you bought a fake lottery ticket from someone, you should contact the police immediately. Be ready with as much identifying information you can remember about the person who sold you the ticket.
Depending on how you paid for the ticket, you might be able to report the fraud to your bank and have them reverse the charges. But if you paid with cash, there’s unfortunately little you can do to get your money back.