Jason S. Miyares
Attorney General of Virginia

Lottery and Sweepstakes Scams

Unexpected prize and lottery scams work by asking you to pay some sort of fee in order to claim your prize or winnings from a competition or lottery you never entered. You may get this notice by mail, telephone, email, text message or social media. To claim your prize, you will be asked to pay a fee to cover insurance costs, government taxes, bank fees or some other fee.

In some cases, the scammer collects your money by asking you to call to get information about your winnings. These numbers (which usually begin with 1-900) charge a premium rate. The scammer will try to keep you on the line for a long time in order to run up a hefty charge, and may even ask you to call a second premium rate number.


Some red flags common to most all lottery and sweepstakes scams:

1.You are asked to respond quickly or risk missing out

2.You are told you have won a lottery or sweepstakes you never entered

3.The scammer tells you to keep your winnings private or confidential, to ‘maintain security’

4.You are told that you must pay money upfront to receive your winnings


Remember these tips to avoid becoming a victim:

  • Be careful of phone numbers that begin with 1-900. These are charged at a premium rate (sometimes even for receiving a message) and can be very expensive.
  • Do not ever call a phone number or respond to an email provided by the potential scammer.
  • Many scam emails can be spotted by the use or poor or incorrect grammar.
  • Never send money or give credit card, online account details, or copies of any personal documents to anyone you don’t know or trust.
  • Avoid any arrangement with a stranger that asks for upfront payment via money order, wire transfer, international funds transfer, pre-loaded card or electronic currency.

If you get a notification that you have won a lottery or sweepstakes, be very cautious, especially if you are being asked to send any amount of money in order to claim your winnings.

You may file a complaint with our office.

File a complaint with the Virginia Attorney General’s Office


You may also file a complaint with:
United States Postal Inspector’s Office.

Federal Trade Commission.

(Although the FTC cannot resolve individual disputes, the information you provide may help indicate a pattern of possible law violations requiring action by the FTC or other law enforcement agency.)