International Lottery Scams

Brightly colored lottery ballsThe pitch may be enticing, but to succumb to a solicitation that comes by mail or telephone offering you the chance to enter a high-stakes overseas lottery is very unwise.  Not only is this almost always a scam, but it’s against federal law in the United States.

Despite our government’s interception and destruction of millions of such mailings originating from outside the country, consumers are losing $120 million each year by responding to fraudulent offers of an easy road to riches.  These losses are nearly impossible to recover.

The cross-border sale or purchase of lottery tickets by phone or mail is illegal.  Furthermore, many scam operators (who may be calling you from Canada) either don't bother to buy the promised lottery tickets, or they keep the proceeds for themselves.  You may even find unauthorized withdrawals or charges on your bank or credit card statement.

You should simply ignore all solicitations for foreign lottery promotions and, if you receive what appears to be lottery material from another country, return it to your local postmaster.  To help in information-gathering efforts regarding current lottery scams, you can also report your experience to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Words of Caution from the FTC 

  • If you play a foreign lottery, through the mail or over the telephone, you're violating federal law.
  • There are no secret systems for winning foreign lotteries. Your chances of winning more than the cost of your tickets are slim to none.
  • If you purchase one foreign lottery ticket, expect many more bogus offers for lottery or investment "opportunities."  Your name will be placed on "sucker lists" that fraudulent telemarketers buy and sell.
  • Keep your credit card and bank account numbers to yourself.  Scam artists often ask for them during an unsolicited sales pitch.