HELENA – Thousands of people buy Mega Millions or Powerball tickets in hopes of winning big.

Everyone knows those lotteries are the real deal, we’ve hear the success stories of people buying just one ticket and winning millions of dollars.

But what about the letters that come in the mail saying you’ve won some cold, hard cash; is that a scam? The answer is usually yes.

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Lottery scams are not the typical scams people think of, but scammers are not shying away from targeting people looking to hit the jackpot.

“They say you’ve won, but in order to collect your winnings, you have to pay some sort of fees or maybe you have to pay the taxes up front, or maybe we’ll deposit it into your checking account so just give us that number and your social security number and you can collect your winnings,” explained Jennifer McKee, Montana Lottery communications manager.

In fact, McKee said people call the Montana Lottery office roughly three times a week asking about suspicious calls, e-mails or letters. One major red flag can give away a scam – a notice addressed to you personally saying you have one.

“We don’t know the name of the person who won. Lotteries are numbers generated and then one is drawn at random,” added McKee. “The only thing we know when we draw is the number” “so you are never going to get a letter from a legitimate lottery saying you won because a legitimate lottery has no idea who won.”

Scams like that may be easy to spot from some people, but other false methods may be more sophisticated making it a bit more tricky to know if the lottery is a scam.

“Sometimes they will use the name of a real game that’s sold in Montana like Powerball or Mega Millions, but Powerball and Mega Millions are just the names of a game, they’re not the name of an atual lottery,” McKee explained.

So before you get excited about winning big, McKee stressed to remember one thing, “You cannot win a lottery that you never entered.”

There’s only one legal lottery in the Treasure State and that’s the Montana Lottery; anything else is simply a scam.

McKee said if you ever question whether or not a lottery you’ve been notified of winning is a scam, just call the Montana Lottery Office for assistance at (406) 444-5825.

If you’ve fallen victim to a lottery scam, be sure to contact the Office of Consumer Protection a division of the Montana Department of Justice. Visit their website here.

For more information on the Montana Lottery click here.

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