RALEIGH – The N.C. Education Lottery warns its players to be on alert about a lottery scam that appears to be targeting recent lottery winners.

In reports to the Consumer Protection Division of the N.C. Attorney General’s Office and to WCNC-TV in Charlotte, recent lottery winners said they were contacted by callers purporting to be from the N.C. Education Lottery and told they had won additional prizes as part of the win. The callers ask the consumers to buy a prepaid debit card and provide the number to them before obtaining the additional prizes.

Alice Garland, executive director of the N.C. Education Lottery, said no legitimate lottery asks winners who win a prize to pay money up front to receive it. She said scammers will use the name of the N.C. Education Lottery to try and take advantage of people so consumers should take careful steps to ensure they are dealing with authorized lottery retailers and legitimate lottery employees.

“Lottery scams, unfortunately, are all too common, but they can easily be avoided by following a few common-sense guidelines,” said Garland. ”We have customer service representatives and security officials who are here to help lottery players with any questions they have about our games. Once you buy your lottery ticket, no additional money is required from you to claim a prize that you win.”

State Attorney General Roy Cooper urged consumers to be careful and said that his office is available to provide assistance.

“Anyone who promises you’ve won a prize but demands money before you can claim it is trying to rip you off,” said Cooper. “Don’t take the bait, and report lottery and other prize scams to my office.”

Players who win up to $599 get their prize at lottery retailers after a winning ticket is validated. Those who win prizes of $600 or larger must claim their prize at one of the NCEL’s regional claims centers. Those who win a prize valued at $100,000 or more must claim their prize at NCEL headquarters in Raleigh. Players who have questions about NCEL games can call the N.C. Education Lottery’s Customer Service line toll free at (877) 962-7529 and those with a security issue can call the Security Hotline toll-free at (888) 732-6235. The NCEL keeps information about lottery scams in a section of its website at http://www.nc-educationlottery.org/. Some of the main guidelines are:

• Buy lottery tickets only from an authorized NCEL lottery retailer.
• Never give your credit card, Social Security card, driver’s license, passport or bank account numbers over the phone to someone promising lottery prizes.
• If you receive a letter, email or phone call asking you to send money to claim a prize, do not respond. No legitimate lottery will ever send you this type of communication.

Consumers who believe they have been the victim of a scam or an attempted scam can get assistance from the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division by calling 1-877-566-7226 or 919-716-6000 or by filing a consumer complaint online at www.ncdoj.gov.