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Lottery & Sweepstakes Scams

Lottery Scams

The only lottery that is legally authorized to operate in Iowa is the Iowa Lottery.

International lottery scams appear through email, direct mail and phone calls.  The interstate or international sale of lottery tickets by mail or by telephone violates state and federal laws.

There is no guarantee that a foreign lottery solicitor is actually entering lotteries on your behalf—these are often straight scams to take your money.  It’s possible that solicitors who ask you to pay through bank account or credit numbers will steal funds or make unauthorized charges from your account.

Sweepstakes and Contest Scams

Legitimate sweepstakes and contests don’t cost money to enter, and don’t seek advance payment from winners to collect winnings.  If you receive a check and someone asks you to send money through a wire transfer service, it is likely an international scam.  The check may appear legitimate—even to a financial institution—but will eventually bounce.  If you wired money to someone while waiting for the check to clear, which could take weeks, you’re responsible for the money you wired.  And as soon as someone picks up the wired funds, the money is gone.

The Odds of Winning

It’s illegal to specify or even suggest that a purchase will increase your odds of winning something.  Those who conduct or market a sweepstakes contest must disclose that entering is free, no purchase is necessary, and must disclose the odds of winning a prize.  Further, they must indicate the nature and value of the prize.  The sweepstakes disclosure should also include information about the start and end dates of the contest, and how contestants can enter.  Be sure to look for this information in writing.

Protect Personal Information

If someone asks for personal information such as a driver’s license or Social Security number for “tax purposes,” don’t provide it, as you will pay taxes directly to the government or the sweepstakes company will withhold the appropriate taxes on winnings.  Most companies will seek nothing more than basic information such as your name, address and telephone number.  And no legitimate company will ask you for bank account or credit card numbers.

Research the Person Claiming You've  Won

Use a familiar Internet search engine to research a company that claims you won something.  In addition to entering the company name into a search engine, add the word “scam” or “complaint” to see what comes up.  If you’re not comfortable doing the research, ask someone you trust to help you.




888-777-4590 (outside of the Des Moines metro area)




Office of the Attorney General of Iowa
Consumer Protection Division
Hoover State Office Building
1305 E. Walnut Street
Des Moines, Iowa 50319-0106


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