Gambling online will always have its up and downs, but for some Canadians, it’s been a struggle to avoid scams. According to a new Better Business Bureau (BBB) study, North Americans lost US$344 million (±CA$453 million) to lottery scam operations and prize hoaxes. From 2015 to 2017, the BBB found that players fell prey to around half a million of these scams and reported them. However, the figure may be higher because of unreported incidents.
The majority of victims of lottery scams are reportedly senior citizens. This is allegedly because they will likely have more disposable income and be easier to manipulate. Those with ‘cognitive impairments’ such as dementia and Alzheimer’s are the most at risk according to the BBB study. People have reportedly lost an average of US$500 (±CA$659) to these scams.
In one example, an 80-year old man, unfortunately, lost US$8 million (±CA$11 million) to a fake Jamaican lottery scheme. Although this is a worst-case scenario, it is still startling.
Lottery Scam over the Phone
According to the BBB, the typical lottery scam used ‘cold calls’ with messages claiming that the person had unclaimed winnings. Similarly, emails, texts and social media messages claimed the same things. Once a response was received, victims were tricked into giving up their personal information. Following this, they would be added to a ‘suckers list’. This list would then be sold to other scam artists across the US and Canada.
The most typical origin for scams is reportedly Jamaica. In the report, the BBB had this to say about lottery scam syndicates:
‘The skilled fraudsters learn all they can about an elderly victim’s assets and ability to borrow cash, take advances on credit cards, obtain loans on their homes or cars or even cash out stocks or other retirement savings’.
Loneliness a Target
What makes senior citizens so vulnerable is that they are more likely to be lonely. Typically, they may have lost a spouse or live alone with few visitors. Some scammers have taken to calling daily and/or sending birthday cards. This allegedly builds trust, leaving victims reeling if contact stops. So, to be sure you don’t fall for a lottery scam, take the following steps:
- Keep your personal details private
- Never answer these types of messages, Canadian lotteries will always call or make an announcement through legal means
- Ensure that you check who is calling and that you have a valid lottery ticket