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Attorney General Marty Jackley

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May Scam of the Month: Canadian Lottery Scams Targeting South Dakotans

May Scam of the Month: 
Canadian Lottery Scams Targeting South Dakotans

(Pierre) – Attorney General Mark Barnett warned South Dakotans today of foreign lottery scams now targeting the state. "We’re seeing another surge of foreign lottery scams in South Dakota, especially originating from Canada," Barnett said. "We’ve had several complaints, including one gentleman who recently lost $9,700 in a German lottery scam.

In one variation of the foreign lottery scams, South Dakota residents have received a letter or phone call saying that he or she has won a Canadian lottery or sweepstakes even though the victim never bought a lottery ticket. 

This is followed by a check, usually for about $10,000, payable to the victim. The check is stamped "certified" and is drawn on an account at the Bank of Montreal. After the check is deposited, the victim is contacted again and told that he or she must pay taxes on winnings by sending a check or wire transfer outside the United States. The victim eventually learns that the lottery check was counterfeit, and is thus out several thousand dollars.

Other fraudulent foreign lottery companies simply try to sell lottery tickets, especially for lotteries in Canada and Australia, to unsuspecting consumers. They often sell tickets to lotteries that don’t exist or overstate the odds for lotteries that do exist. The bottom line is, except for legitimate state lotteries, it is illegal to purchase lottery tickets by phone or mail.


"Remember, if you’ve really won something, you should never have to pay a fee to collect your prize," Barnett said. "Most of these so-called lotteries are scams."

The Division of Consumer Protection offers these tips to help avoid foreign lottery and investment schemes:

  • Don’t fall for promises of big winnings.    
  • Beware of anyone pressuring you to make a snap decision.   
  • Ignore offers to buy tickets for foreign lotteries. They are illegal, unless you personally travel to that country to purchase them.   
  • Never pay up-front fees for unidentified investment opportunities or prize promotions. If you’ve actually won, you shouldn’t have to pay anything up-front.

"Foreign lotteries and investment schemes often target the elderly and others who have actively responded to sweepstakes promotions," Barnett said. "Getting a victim’s money back is extremely difficult, so we advise South Dakotans to use caution when approached by a foreign lottery."

Consumers with questions, concerns, or complaints about foreign lottery scams or any scams are encouraged to contact Barnett’s Division of Consumer Protection at 1-800-300-1986. Additional consumer protection information is also available at the Attorney General’s website (