Milwaukee, Wis. – Everyone could use a little good luck with the cost of gas, groceries, and other day-to-day expenses. Scammers would like you to think it’s your lucky day, too, which is why text message scams claiming to be from past lottery winners who want to share their “winnings” continue to flourish.
BBB has seen a recent uptick in reports to BBB Scam Tracker about this imposter scam. As BBB has reported in the past, these messages aren’t from past lottery winners; they’re from scammers trying to steal your money or your personal information.
One name used frequently by scammers is Manuel Franco, a Wisconsin resident who won the Powerball lottery in April 2019. BBB Scam Tracker has received 60 reports so far in 2022 using his name, which is almost double what BBB received in the same time period (January 1 through mid-April) in 2021.
A total of 315 reports using Franco’s name have been received since December 2019. The reports came from consumers in 43 states, including Alaska, with California reporting the highest total (31), followed by Texas (25).
Fortunately, most consumers recognized the scam and didn’t lose any money. However, 10 consumers lost money ranging from $200 to nearly $4,500, for a total loss of $16,800. The scammers duped the consumers into paying what they claimed were taxes or other fees to receive a portion of the “winnings”.
One consumer from Texas, who thought he was corresponding with Franco, reported to Scam Tracker, “This scammer played on my emotions for months and made me pay close to $4,500 because he guaranteed me I’d be getting $200,000. I feel like such a fool for trusting him for so long.”
Another name frequently used is Scott Godfrey, a California resident who won the Powerball lottery in October 2021. BBB has received six Scam Tracker reports in March 2022 alone using Godfrey’s name. In fact, of the 17 individuals who have won the Powerball lottery since 2018, BBB has received Scam Tracker reports using seven of these winners’ names.
How it works
Scammers use the name of real lottery winners to send out text messages, social media messages, phone calls or emails informing people they’ve “been chosen” to receive free money from the winner. The messages – generally through text or email – state that the winner has decided to donate money to charity, or that the winner “is randomly choosing people to share in the wealth” and “you’re one of the lucky recipients.” It will ask you to click on a link, which will only lead to the scammers asking you for personal information or money to pay for taxes or other fees.
A Wisconsin consumer reported, “I was sent a message saying I was to receive $50,000 from Manuel Franco. I was tricked into giving my driver’s license number and SSN. I fell for this and I am really worried about what they might do.”
To add credibility, the scammers may include links and news stories about the lottery winner.
An Alabama consumer stated, “I received a text saying ‘I’m Mr. Manuel Franco, the Powerball winner in the Powerball Millions Jackpot. Click here to see my winning interview. I’m donating to 1000 random individuals. If you get this message then your number was selected’…To verify your winners send a text to this number…and fill out some information so we can proceed immediately.”
BBB recommends that if you receive such a message, delete it.
The Wisconsin Lottery is aware of lottery scams and has information on how to avoid falling for them on its website.
BBB reminds people to protect themselves from impostor scams:
- Be suspicious of irregular communications, especially via text, email or phone.
- Don’t provide money or information to people that you don’t know or that promise you money in exchange. You will never have to pay upfront fees to claim a prize.
- If you are asked to prove your identity, it’s a scam.
- Always report scams to law enforcement or BBB Scam Tracker.
For more information or further inquiries, contact the Wisconsin BBB at www.bbb.org/wisconsin, 414-847-6000 or 1-800-273-1002. Consumers also can find more information about how to protect themselves from scams by following the Wisconsin BBB on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. ABOUT BBB: For more than 100 years, the Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2020, people turned to BBB more than 220 million times for BBB Business Profiles on 6.2 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at BBB.org. There are local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, including BBB Serving Wisconsin which was founded in 1939 and serves the state of Wisconsin.