Local law enforcement joined with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) of Upstate NY to warn the public about the alarming increase in sweepstakes, lottery and prize scams. In 2017, victims lost $117 million dollars to the scammers who mostly targeted senior citizens.
The warnings came in conjunction with a new report by the BBB that studied the problem and found that many of the scammers were operating out of Jamaica and Costa Rica. Nearly 500,000 people reported these types of scams over the past three years in the U.S. and Canada. The median loss was $500.
Prize scams promise some sort of winning, either a product or money. However, in order to get the prize, a victim has to pay some fees. Scammers continue asking for more fees and never deliver on promises.
Sadly, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) found that less than 10% of fraud victims report the crime because of embarrassment or guilt.
The most common scam going around now involves Facebook. You will receive a notice from what appears to be one of your contacts informing you that you have won the "Facebook Lottery." There is no "Facebook lottery."
Another scam that pops up on cell phones often is one saying that you won a gift card. This too is a scam.
The BBB found that lonely seniors, who had suffered a death of a spouse or illness, were the most susceptible - and not because of greed. The victims were hoping to collect the prizes to share or help their family.
You are advised to report scams to the BBB, the Erie County District Attorney's Office or the FBI at (716) 856-7800.
7 Eyewitness News reporter Ed Reilly has more in his report.
You can read the BBB report on prize scams here: