Lotteries, sweepstakes and contests

The scam

The scammer tries to convince you to send money or provide banking or other personal information to pay a fee or tax before you can claim a non-existent prize.


It’s Wednesday morning… and you open an email or answer your phone.

Suddenly – your life changes!!! “Congratulations! You’ve just won a lottery/

a cruise/a shopping spree/a BRAND… NEW… CAR!!!”

Yes… you’re already a WINNER!!! Or are you?

Scammers and fraudsters play upon the universal desire to win big…

… with lottery, sweepstakes and contest scams designed to put money in their pockets…

… as they profit by making you pay premium p or phone rates, bogus “fees” or hidden costs.

Even worse, many of these scams are designed

SPECIFICALLY to steal your banking and other personal information…

… after which the fraudsters cash in by stealing from you or holding your data for ransom.

Fact is, if you didn’t enter a contest,

or buy a ticket, there’s no way you are a lawful, legal winner

of ANYTHING… and your “scam alert” should be ringing

in your head. Here’s a “winning” formula:

Only buy legitimate tickets for lotteries… Be wary of premium rate phone numbers or premium ps

Don’t send money for fees or taxes to people

you don’t know and trust… Don’t give away your banking information

or any other personal information – EVER. Be smart – and good luck!

A message from the Competition Bureau of Canada… and the Little Black Book of Scams.

Video length: 1 minute, 44 seconds

How it works

This scam can work in a number of ways. The scammer may call you, send you an email or text message, you see a pop-up message on your computer, or receive something by mail. Often, you discover there are costs involved in claiming the prize. Or the scammer tells you that, to collect your winnings, you have to call or text a “premium rate” number (for example, a 900 number), which will result in you having to pay expensive fees.

How to spot it

You cannot win a contest unless you have submitted an entry, or someone has done so on your behalf. If a prize is legitimate, you should not have to pay any fee or tax to collect it.

Don’t be fooled by claims that the offer is legal or has government approval—many scammers will tell you this. Instead of receiving a prize, you will lose every cent you send to the scammer. And if you have provided other personal details, your identity could be stolen, too.

Protect yourself

  • Examine the terms and conditions of the offer carefully. If someone is offering you something for free or for a very cheap price, look for the hidden costs.
  • Avoid texting or calling a 900 number or other premium rate number. These premium rate calls can be very expensive, and the scammers will try to keep you on the line for a long time or ask you to call a different premium rate number.
  • Never send money or provide personal banking details to someone you don’t know and trust to avoid your identity being misused too. Remember: Legitimate lotteries do not require you to pay a fee or tax to collect winnings.
  • Remember, you cannot be chosen as a random winner if you aren’t entered into the contest.

Further reading