Don’t Take the Bait: Consumer Sweepstakes Scams

Scam Alert

Have you received a call from someone claiming to be from a government agency about a sweepstakes prize? Don’t take the bait – these are scammers attempting to make you their latest victim!

OAG is aware of several imposter scams where scammers pretend to be calling from government consumer protection agencies.  After they’ve won your trust through this impersonation, scammers will direct you to a fake website where—in order to claim your thousands of dollars of prize money—you are instructed to provide personal information to verify your identity or payment information. Do not provide this information. Sweepstakes and lotteries do not require winners to provide personal information or payment information to claim a legitimate prize, and government agencies do not participate in nor are they affiliated with sweepstakes or other prizes. 

This is a hybrid of two classic scams: prize scams and government imposter scams. But these scammers have gotten more sophisticated, creating websites that look real to the ordinary consumer and providing consumers with fake phone numbers and/or messages with an agency’s seal.

The easiest way to avoid becoming the latest victim of any scam is to ignore the message entirely. Do not respond, and do not provide your personal information or payment information.

If the prize seems legitimate, ask yourself the following four questions:

  1. Did you enter this lottery? If you do not remember entering a lottery—especially one operated in a foreign country—it is probably a scam.
  2. Does claiming the prize require providing personal information or payment information? This is the biggest red flag that the prize is not legitimate, especially if the sweepstakes or lottery tells you that payment will increase your likelihood of winning.
  3. Is the prize announcer directing you to a website or providing you contact information that differs from actual government resources? Never click on any links in emails. Always do your own research and only go to websites you can verify are real. Government websites usually will end in “.gov”.
  4. Is the prize announcer claiming to be from a consumer protection agency? Neither the federal nor state consumer protection agencies give, certify, or verify prizes of any kind.

If you believe you have been contacted by a prize scam, submit a complaint to the Office of the Attorney General by calling (202) 442-9828, emailing, or submitting a complaint online. Hearing from you helps us respond to individual consumer complaints and identify scammers who have repeatedly attempted to cheat District consumers.

OAG works to educate District residents about their consumer rights, responds to individual consumer complaints, and takes law enforcement action when appropriate.