Here’s a timely warning. Always check winning lottery tickets yourself.
Most lottery retailers are honest decent people. And they get a real buzz when their store creates a big lottery winner.
But greed can do unpleasant things to some people.
A recent NBC broadcast warned of the danger of dishonest store clerks attempting to steal winning lottery tickets, and various other scratch off lottery ticket scams.
Here’s How The Ticket Scam Works
You walk into your local store to check your lottery ticket. That could be a scratch-off ticket or a regular lotto game.
Heading over to the ‘scan your ticket’ machine, you’re pleased to see “Congratulations, see retailer”. (Most machines do NOT tell you how much you have won!)
So you hand over your ticket to the store clerk who checks the ticket for you. “Congratulations” they say – you are indeed a winner. “You’ve won a free ticket – here you go, hope you have more good luck :-)”.
You walk away happy. You won. And your next ticket might just be the big one.
But you’ve just been ripped off.
Now the reality is, this dishonest store clerk just lied about how much your ticket was really worth.
Did they scan the ticket? You can’t quite remember – you think so, they went to the machine… I think. I don’t remember hearing the winners ‘chime’ though..?
They may have even thrown your ‘losing’ ticket in the trash (until you walk out the door).
That store clerk kept your ticket to claim it later.
It may have been worth $50, or a couple of thousand! You’ll never know because you’ve just become the latest victim of a scam that is well known to the lottery companies. So well known that their security department uses undercover agents to test out stores from time to time to see if their staff are being honest!
The ‘Fake Scratcher Scan’ Scam
Another even simpler way this can work is if YOU don’t even bother to check the ticket at all.
Hang around near the lottery counter in any sizeable retailer and you will see this time and time again. Regular scratchers players will often just scratch off the barcode, not even the game panels. Then just hand the ticket back to the retailer to find out if they won.
NOTE: for those that don’t know, the retailer just scans the hidden barcode into their lottery terminal to find out if it is a winner or not.
This leaves you completely open to being scammed.
All a dishonest retailer has to do is pretend to scan your ticket. Then say “sorry dude, not a winner this time”, and throw the ticket in the trash. You walk out none the wiser, and they dig the ticket out of the waste bin and either claim it later themselves or get a friend to claim it.
One of the reasons lottery terminals play a winners chime is to try and prevent this kind of scam.
But it’s not hard to do. Many lottery terminals are hidden behind counters where they are hard to see. And it’s really not difficult for someone to put their thumb over the barcode so it won’t scan properly.
The ‘Pinning’ Scam
You buy a ticket, try your luck – never mind, it’s a loser, better luck next time right?
Except the retailer already knew that ticket was a loser when they sold it to you. Because they just cheated you by checking it before you even entered the store.
How can that possibly happen?
Remember that hidden bar code I mentioned above that has to be scanned to check for a winning ticket? It’s technically possible to scratch just enough to be able to scan it – by removing a thin line using e.g. a pin (hence the term ‘pinning’) – whilst still leaving the ticket looking unscratched.
That dishonest retailer scratched it, checked it, discovered it was a losing ticket and put it aside to sell later! If it was a winner they would have bought it for themselves.
How Rare Is All This?
It’s impossible to say. The lottery companies themselves are very aware of all these scams and are working hard to prevent them.
But they only investigate big prize winners as a matter of course. They can’t possibly investigate all the millions of small prizes that are won every single week. So it’s actually even more likely to happen for small wins where the retailer can simply say “sorry, no win this time” and happily claim your prize.
So How Do You Protect Yourself?
It’s actually really simple.
- Always sign the back of EVERY ticket as soon as you buy it.
- Check lottery tickets yourself.
- Inspect every ticket you buy before you leave the counter – reject any damaged or partially scratched tickets.
- If you experience anything suspicious please do report it to the lottery company, they have fraud prevention teams who will investigate.
You can also simply play the lottery online instead.
By all means use a scanner to check for a winning ticket. But if it is a winner, make sure you know how much you have won. For a scratch-off, be sure you understand how that game works. For a draw based game, go online or find a newspaper with the lottery results to check which prize you actually won.
And if you’re buying scratchers then DO actually play them as intended. Most of the fun with scratch-off tickets is in actually playing them! So don’t just hand it over – play the game, and see if you won. If you’re not sure how the game works, then either choose a different one or get it explained to you before you play it.
Have you been caught out by something like this? Please do add your story in the comments below to help warn other people.
P.S. Did you get my scratchers tips yet? Lots of great tips on improving your chances of winning – oh, and they’re free.
P.P.S. If you live in the USA, and play the scratch-off tickets, I also strongly recommend you get Dave’s service here. It’s crazy cheap and will update you every week with the tickets that have the best chance of winning for your state. Don’t play without it!