RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Virginia Lottery is warning consumers to be alert for fake lottery scams that attempt to get you to pay them a “fee” or “taxes” to collect a non-existent prize — or attempt to get your bank account information.

The Virginia Lottery said, if it is too good to be true, it probably is — and there has been an uptick of reports of fake lottery scams recently.

There are many forms of the scams, according to Va. Lottery. The scammers try to convince intended victims that they have won a large prize and might falsely identify themselves as being an official with Virginia Lottery or a familiar game like Mega Millions or Powerball.

The “Protect Your Play” campaign was established to inform consumers about fake lottery scams and how to protect themselves from various types of fraud.

According to Virginia Lottery, if the victim is fooled into thinking he or she has won a prize, the scammers often try to get the person to send them money or personal information. They may also attempt to send the winner a fake “check” and ask the winner to send money back to cover expenses. It is only after victims have sent their own money that they discover the check they received is no good.

Here are some tips from the Virginia Lottery that can prevent you from being scammed:

  • If someone says you have won a lottery that you have never played, be suspicious. You can’t win a legitimate lottery if you didn’t buy a ticket or enter a lottery promotion.
  • No real lottery tells winners to put up their own money in order to collect a prize they have already won. If you must pay a fee to collect your winnings, you haven’t won.
  • If you are called, check the caller’s area code. If it’s from a foreign country, that’s a red flag. However, be aware that some con artists use technology that allows them to disguise their area code; although it may look like they’re calling from Virginia, they could be anywhere in the world.
  • Be suspicious if an email contains misspellings or poor grammar.
  • If you are told that you need to keep your “win” confidential, be suspicious.
  • Just because a real lottery is mentioned does not necessarily make it a real prize. Someone may be using the lottery’s name without its permission or knowledge.
  • Never give out personal information or send money unless you verify the company’s or solicitor’s legitimacy.
  • If they offer to wire the “winnings” directly into your bank account, do not give them your bank account information.
  • If you are told that you can “verify” the prize by calling a certain number, that number may be part of the scam. Instead of calling it, you should look up the name of the lottery or organization on your own to find out its real contact information.
  • If you think someone on the phone is trying to scam you, hang up immediately. If you engage them in conversation, you could end up on a list that’s shared with other scammers.

The Virginia Attorney General’s Office has a consumer protection hotline that people can call if they feel they’ve been the victims of a fake lottery scam. The number is 800-552-9963.