Remember the old saying, "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is"? This is especially true of phone calls or mail solicitations offering instant wealth through foreign lotteries.
Here's an example of a lottery scam:
"Congratulations! You may receive a certified check for up to $400,000,000 U.S. CASH! One lump sum! Tax free! Your odds to WIN are 1-6."
Of course, all you need to do is provide your credit card number or financial institution account number to purchase the lottery tickets. And when you do, the lottery hustlers will make unauthorized withdrawals or run up charges on your credit card.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns that 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.
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.
The bottom line, according to the FTC: Ignore all mail and phone solicitations for foreign lottery promotions. If you receive what looks like lottery material from a foreign country, give it to your local postmaster.
Other lottery scams proclaim that you are a winner in a foreign lottery that you never entered. All you have to do to collect your winnings is send a "contest fee" to cover expenses. You're also instructed not to tell anyone that you have won the lottery – especially bank or credit union employees – or you will lose your winnings. If you send the fee, whether by mail or through a wire transfer, you'll never see your money or the lottery winnings again.