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Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement

A Division of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety

Common Scams

Cross-Border Fraud

Cross-border fraud is a growing serious problem. With the Internet and cell phones, it is easy for victims to be targeted from anywhere in the world. Minnesotans lose over $30 million to these scams annually. The most common cross-border frauds involve:

  • Phony prize promotions
  • Foreign lottery schemes
  • Advance-fee loans
  • Travel offer scams
  • Unnecessary credit card loss "protection"

Minnesota works closely with Canadian, Jamaican, British and other foreign authorities to shut down cross-border crimes. The following warning signs may keep you, a family member or friend from being victimized:

  • Be wary of anything that promises large sums of money, such as sweepstakes or lottery winnings, in exchange for advance payment. 
  • Don't be pressured into making a decision about an offer. Check it out first.
  • Be cautious about any business that tries to conceal their mailing address and phone number.


Foreign Lottery Fraud

Playing a foreign lottery through the mail will pretty much guarantee that you will lose. Once you play, you'll be put on a list. And you can count on receiving more "chances" to play - and lose. Things to know about foreign lotteries:

  • It's illegal. Federal law prohibits mailing lottery tickets, advertisements or payments to purchase tickets in a foreign lottery. 
  • Foreign lottery agents take your money and don't even buy the tickets. 
  • Scammers will tell you you've won and want to charge you a fee to collect non-existent winnings. 
  • Don't give out personal or financial information to anyone over the Internet or phone who tells you you've won — but need to pay taxes or a fee to collect your winnings.


Sweepstakes and Prize Scams

Every day, Minnesota consumers receive sweepstakes promotions by mail, phone or Internet. If you have to pay to play or pay to receive "winnings," the promotion is a scam. You never have to pay to enter a sweepstakes. That includes paying shipping and handling fees, taxes or buying a product to receive your "prize." Those sweepstakes that notify you by a postcard that you've won a free prize are run by con artists whose sole purpose is to rip you off. And that "free prize" could end up costing you thousands of dollars.

Here are some tips to evaluate the legitimacy of sweepstakes or other promotions:

  • Rules and entry instructions for the promotion should be easy to find and understand. If you can't understand what you must do to be eligible, don't respond. 
  • You never have to pay to play when the contest is legitimate. 
  • No legitimate prize company asks for your credit card number, bank account information or social security number to declare you a winner.

Information courtesy of