Sweepstakes Scams: Protect Yourself & Recover Lost Money

Welcome to our Sweepstakes Scams Warning, in which we not only warn against this dangerous form of financial SCAM but also provide you with ways to protect yourself from falling into it and recover any money already lost.

Yesterday, March 22, 2023, we received the following complaint:

I made an investment of about $10,000 after being contacted by a sweepstakes agent named John Miller. He lured me in by saying that I had won $3.5 million, but then he proceeded to charge me in various ways to send them money. This included taking out two loans and using several other methods. Unfortunately, they have completely depleted my funds and are still asking for an additional $5000.

This person may have fallen victim to a common scam known as a “sweepstakes scam.”

These scams typically involve scammers contacting people and falsely informing them that they have won a large sum of money (“He lured me in by saying that I had won $3.5 million“) but then requiring the victim to pay some sort of fee or taxes in order to receive the prize (“but then he proceeded to charge me in various ways to send them money“).

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The victim has been defrauded for at least $10,000 in this case.

Scammers may use a variety of tactics to get the victim to send them money, such as requesting wire transfers, gift cards, or personal information.

Unfortunately, once the victim sends the money, they often find out that the prize was never real, to begin with, and they have lost their money.

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    How to Recognize Sweepstakes Scams?

    Scammers may demand payment to receive a prize or ask for sensitive information such as credit card numbers. Legitimate sweepstakes do not ask for fees to enter a giveaway or to receive a prize, and taxes are paid directly to the IRS. (Regardless of value, all prize winnings in the US require payment of taxes, with reporting of all winnings as income.)

    It is important to verify the email address, phone number, and other details of the sweepstakes sponsor before responding to a win notification and to be wary of urgent or immediate requests for action.

    Additionally, sweepstakes scams may involve counterfeit checks or requests to wire or transfer money using Green Dot Money Pack cards. Legitimate sweepstakes do not require direct deposit of prizes or verification of bank account or credit card numbers.


    The Better Business Bureau (BBB) reports a scam filed on March 13, 2023, where the victim was told they won a car and $5 million but had to pay taxes and fees to receive it. The scammer’s name is Lester Goodman, phone number is 929-355-0718, and claimed to work at Publishers Clearing House in Nevada. The victim lost $35,000 over 3 years, and the scammer has continued to harass them even after changing their phone number.

    The BBB also provides information on a reported scam where the victim was told they owed back taxes, customs fees, and a golden eagle stamp to release money that would be delivered the same day. The victim lost $14,000.

    Thirdly, the BBB provides information on another scam involving a supposed sweepstakes win and requests for payment to cover taxes and fees, ultimately resulting in the loss of $3560. The scammer used phone numbers for a law firm, a gaming commission, and an international courier and claimed to be associated with the Sweet 6 Corporation in the Philippines. The victim reported the scam to the BBB on March 10, 2023.

    Here’s another BBB report from someone whose sister was scammed out of $5,000 by someone claiming she had won a car and a million dollars. The scammer, who went by the name “Jim,” had the victim send a photo of a blank check and withdraw money from her account each time she received her Social Security or Pension deposits. The victim was asked for another $5,000 and, thankfully, did not send it.

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    Finally, there’s a BBB report from March 17, 2023, of a sweepstakes/lottery/prize scam involving a phone caller claiming to be from Publishers Clearing House. The victim was scammed out of $2,000.

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    These are just a few examples. This is a very common type of scam.

    Complaints We Received

    On October 3, 2023, we received the following complaint:

    I received the following email from a phone number based in Fort Worth, Texas: 1-682-720-9993 on 9/27/2023 at 2:03 pm:

    “Sweep stakes sponsored by Readers Digest in the multi state lottery association has awarded you for the grand prize winner the total cash prize of $2.5 million along with the most awesome bonus prize of $5000 for each and every week for life and a brand new Mercedes Benz with a five year warranty congratulations write down your claim code number 002PCH please press one to speak to Dave Fair press two to repeat this message press three to leave a voicemail we look forward to hearing from you before it’s to late thank you.”

    I called the aforementioned phone number and spoke to Dave. I mentioned that we had talked about two weeks ago and informed him that this was a scam. When he inquired how I knew, I explained that I had contacted PCH. He subsequently ended the call.

    On November 10, 2023, we received the following complaint from a person who reported being scammed for $500:

    I had been receiving calls from the sweepstakes and PCH for the last six months, telling me that I had won. So, I fell for it and was scammed. I never received my winnings. I started blocking every unknown number. They just change numbers and names; I bet I have over 100 numbers blocked on my phone, and they are all from males. It is getting stressful.

    What to do if you have fallen for Sweepstake Scams?

    Sweepstakes scams have caused thousands of dollars in losses for many prize winners in the United States, with numerous scams reported on social media and other platforms involving foreign lottery or sweepstakes and requests for bank account information, and offering more than just chances to win grand prizes…

    To avoid falling victim to these scams, it is important to be vigilant and never pay a fee or provide sensitive information to claim your prize.

    If you have already been scammed, immediately report it to the proper authorities, and consider seeking assistance from a financial advisor or credit counselor. Remember, there is still hope for recovering your lost funds.

    You may want to report the incident to your local law enforcement agency or to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

    Reviewing your credit report and bank statements for any unauthorized charges or suspicious activity is also a good idea.

    Additionally, you may want to consider speaking with a financial advisor or credit counselor to help you recover from the financial losses you have experienced.

    Update (March 23, 2023): Shortly after publishing this post, we received a complaint about a scam in which the person was notified that they won $150,000 from Publishers Clearing House but were asked to pay a small fee to receive the prize package. The person sent thousands of dollars ($9,000), but never received the package.

    If you are a victim of a sweepstakes scam, please let us know by commenting below.

    If you have lost significant money to online scams, such as the Sweep Stake scam, do not lose hope. We can help you recover your funds!

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