Who doesn’t dream of winning the lottery, or getting notified of a long-lost relative who has left you their hidden fortune. Even getting a notice from the government that you are owed money feels pretty good. Scammers use this as their bait to steal your money and personal details. Some of the most common unexpected money and winnings scams include:
The scammer makes contact with you normally via a phone call, letter or email telling you that you have a distant relative that you don't know, that has passed away, they have no next of kin and that you have been lucky enough to inherit a sum of money. They will often pretend to be acting in an official capacity on behalf of the relative. This could be as a lawyer, accountant, bank or some kind of government worker. They tell you before you can get access to the money there are some procedural checks including forms that need to be submitted out and taxes to pay. They ask you to pay an upfront fee for administration and other costs so they can start the process for you as well as personal details like proof of identity and bank account details.
Scammers contact you claiming to be from the IRS and inform you that you are eligible for a tax refund. They request that you contact them so they can confirm your details and process that payment. When you call them they will try to get provide personal details and inform you that there is an administration fee that you need to pay via wire transfer so they can send you the refund.
This is a classic imposter scam where scammers pose a representatives from a lottery or sweepstakes organisation. They call to inform you of the great news that you have been one of their lucky winners. Often they do a very good job imitating official communication using the organisations brands in emails and letters. They ask to send in money so you can claim your prize usually by wire transfer, gift cards or cryptocurrency which makes it all but impossible to trace and have any chance of getting your money back.
There are many other variations of unexpected winnings and lottery scams. If you are contacted by someone claiming to be from a government department or lottery, hang up, go to the appropriate website find the phone number and call back to verify if the claim is real. Legitimate businesses won't ask you to make a payment up front so anyone that does is probably a scammer. Never give out your personal details to anyone unless you can be 100% sure they are who they say they are.
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