Seniors are often the target of low-life scammers. In the past, the scams were over landline phones, through the mail or even door to door. Now, a new generation of low-life scammers is also using social media to target some of society’s most vulnerable with a new spate of lottery and sweepstakes scams.

A new Better Business Bureau report shows that over 2,800 such scams were reported to the BBB in 2017. The report also states that at least $117 million was stolen from a half a million Americans and Canadians in 2017, with seniors representing the majority of the victims. The report also finds that-surprise, surprise-the scams commonly originated in Jamaica, Costa Rica and Nigeria.

You should never give anyone personal information to someone over the phone, in person or online who tells you that you’ve ‘won’ anything, most especially if they ask you for money up front. As you've heard a thousand times: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Some tips from the BBB include:

  • True lotteries or sweepstakes don’t ask for money before you claim a prize. If they want money for taxes, themselves, or a third party, they are most likely crooks.
  • Call the lottery or sweepstakes company directly to see if you won. Publishers Clearing House (PCH) does have sweepstakes but does not call people in advance to tell them they’ve won. Report PCH imposters to their hotline at 800-392-4190.
  • Check to see if you won a lottery. Call the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries at 440-361-7962 or your local state lottery agency.
  • Do an internet search for the company, name, or phone number of the person who contacted you.
  • Law enforcement does not call to award prizes.
  • Talk to a trusted family member or your bank. They may be able to help you stay in control of your money in the face of fraudster pressure.