Who doesn’t love the thought of discovering a little bit of extra money? Not enough to be categorized as a mega-millionaire—although that wouldn’t hurt too badly either, would it—but just a few hundred dollars? Maybe a couple thousand?
That’s the allure of inexpensive scratch off lottery cards. In locations that legally regulate and sell them, scratch off cards are an instant-gratification game. Instead of waiting a day or so for a giant jackpot, scratch off cards tell you immediately whether or not you’re a winner. Even better, depending on the amount of your winnings, you might get your money immediately from the cash register where you purchased the ticket. Walking into a store to pay for your gas and walking out with a few hundred dollars can be pretty enticing.
But there’s a new scam involving scratch off cards, and a lot of it hinges on how you received your card in the first place. While these could conceivably be for sale in some shady locations, they’re typically found as a free “take one” card located near free classified ads publications, free real estate magazines, and more. You take your free card, scratch off the numbers, and—what a surprise!—your numbers are a match. You’ve won a tidy sum of money, not enough to feel like a scam but just enough to make it worth your while, and you’re instructed to call the number on the back of the card.
The scam actually begins once you pick up the phone. Throughout the duration of the lengthy phone call, a call that’s actually rerouted so you end up paying long-distance charges, you’re led to believe this is a legitimate lottery and that your winnings are on their way. All you have to do is provide the right information in order to confirm you as a winner and send you your check.
Of course, there is no check. You’re not winning anything, but you are losing your personal identifiable information. If you’re lucky, you’ve only set yourself up to be targeted by telemarketers and spammers. If you’re not so lucky, you’ve just provided all of your sensitive data to an identity thief.
It’s fun to dream of quitting your job and retiring to your beach house, but it’s important to remember that you will never win a lottery or contest that you didn’t have to enter or purchased a ticket for. If anyone promises you free money, the only guarantee you have is that it’s a scam. More importantly, if anyone ever wants your personal information for any reason, think twice about turning it over in order to protect yourself and your identity.
Anyone can be a victim of identity theft, anyone can use our services, and anyone can help us help others. If you found this information useful, please consider donating to the Identity Theft Resource Center to help us keep our services free to the public.