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Posted by The Barrie Examiner on March 21, 2013.

If it’s too good to be true, it likely isn’t.

OPP say many people find themselves becoming scam victims, thanks to the excitement of a surprise win or to claim prizes from fake lotteries, sweepstakes or contests.

They might receive a phone call, an e-mail, a text message, or see a pop-up screen on their computer. Sometimes there are claims that the offer is legal or has government approval.

Often there are costs involved with claiming your prize. Instead of receiving a grand prize or fortune, you could lose every cent that you send to the scammer.

Even if you do receive a prize, it may not be what was promised. And, if you have provided other personal details, your identity information could be misused for other criminal means.

Prize fraud now ranks second-highest in Canada in terms of the number of mass marketing fraud complaints, and fourth in terms of dollar losses reported by victims.

In 2012, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre received 5,478 Canadian complaints of prize or lottery fraud. Of those, 833 people were victimized to the tune of more than $5.1-million.

Police believe only 5% of victims actually report the crime.

Members of the OPP Anti-Rackets Branch remind consumers they can protect themselves from becoming a victim of a lottery/prize scam.

Legitimate lotteries do not require you to pay a fee or tax to collect winnings.

Never send money to anybody you don’t know or trust.

Don’t provide personal banking details to anyone that you do not know and trust.

Examine all of the terms and conditions of any offer very carefully. Claims of free or very cheap offers often have hidden costs. Calls to premium rate phone numbers or premium text messages can be very expensive.

Ask yourself, did I willingly enter this contest?

If you or someone you know has been approached to pay a fee to claim a lottery or other type of prize, contact your local police service or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.