Lottery Jackpot

A customer, who did not want to be identified, displays the $200.00 worth of Mega Millions tickets he bought at Downtown Plaza convenience store in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

After an elderly man paid almost $2,000 to claim what turned out to be a bogus sweepstakes prize, the Better Business Bureau is warning the public to beware of similar scams. 

The business group received "dozens of calls" last week from people saying they were targeted by sweepstakes scams, BBB of South Central Louisiana President and CEO Carmen Million said.

One of those calls came from a woman whose elderly father bought a gift card and loaded it with hundreds of dollars to pay "taxes" for the sweepstakes at a scammer's behest.

Consumers should never pay money to claim a prize, according to the BBB. And if anyone asks for money before the prize is delivered, it's likely a scam. 

Scammers target adults over the age of 55, the BBB says. That demographic represents 72% of fraud reports for this rip-off category in the last three years, according to the BBB Scam Tracker. More than 90% of those victims lost money.

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Sweepstakes scammers reach out through phone calls, email, social media, notices in the mail and text messages, according to BBB Scam Tracker data.

The BBB said that in addition to an ask for money, there are other ways to determine if the sweepstakes or lottery is a scam.  

You have to enter to win, which means purchasing a lottery ticket. If someone says you won a prize, you must have registered. Furthermore, Publishers Clearing House does not call winners in advance to tell them they’ve won.

If in doubt about a prize's validity, the BBB suggests calling their experts for guidance at (225) 346-5222.