Criminals using social media, text messages in lottery scams

Officials have issued a warning for anyone trying to win big through a lottery or sweepstakes.

A new report says scammers are changing their tactics, turning to social media and text messages to trick want-to-be-winners.

So how can you distinguish a real prize from a fake?

Lana Cowans is like many Americans, hoping to win big in a sweepstakes.

“I call them every day because I truly want to win Publisher's Clearing House,” she said.

After trying for years, she finally got a call with a man telling her she won a $2-million prize.

“You won, Ms. Cowans, you won, and we're going to be there,” she said.

But after the caller demanded money for taxes up front, Cowans realized it was just a scam. She didn't fall for it.

On Tuesday, Attorney General Lisa Madigan joined up with the Better Business Bureau to announce a new report that shows hundreds of thousands of people every year still do.

“Everybody wants to believe that they are going to get a new car, or they are going to get a million dollars,” Madigan said.

The report says scammers are now turning to social media and text messages, which may claim users won a Facebook lottery, a Walmart gift card or even a million-dollar payout.

“Then comes a trap. Always, there's a trap after this, when they win it, they say you won, they develop the trust, the caller says the victim needs to pay for taxes or other insurance matters,” said Steve Bernas of the BBB.

Bernas says that's where the scammers typically win out. In fact, Americans lost more than $100 million to these fake fees just last year.

All consumer protection experts agree you should never pay to win a free prize.

“It's a simple message, unfortunately it's not heeded by consumers, they continue to give thousands and thousands of dollars,” Bernas said.