In observance of National Consumer Protection Week, March 2-8, and National Problem Gambling Awareness Week, March 9-15, the Louisiana Lottery Corporation encourages players to understand their rights while playing responsibly. In an effort to educate our players, the Lottery offers the following advice for a positive, fun experience.

For security purposes, players are advised to always sign the back of their ticket before presenting it to claim a prize at a retail location. In addition, players should take the time to understand the game they are playing and have an idea whether they've won and the amount won before cashing a ticket.

"A signature on the back of a ticket helps identify the owner of the ticket and discourages theft," said Lottery President Rose Hudson. "If a player questions the value of a ticket they are claiming, they may ask the retailer for a validation receipt to confirm the amount won. If a player is told their ticket isn't a winner, the player has a right to request the return of the ticket."

Lottery players are also encouraged to double check their tickets before leaving the store for any discrepancies or inaccuracies. "Players are not required to purchase a ticket they do not want, provided they alert the retailer prior to leaving the store and the ticket is not scratched, if it is a scratch-off game," explained Hudson.

In addition, players should be wary of any notifications of winning a lottery or solicitations to play an online or out-of-state lottery. Over the past few years, there has been a proliferation of e-mail and postal mail illegal lottery scams that have surfaced across the country.

To sound legitimate, these illegal lottery prize notifications may contain special coupons or reference numbers and suggest the recipient's e-mail address was randomly selected. In mail-based scams, a bogus check is often enclosed to supposedly cover the costs of claiming the prize. In these types of scams, the recipient is instructed to wire money to cover insurance, taxes or other related prize payment costs.

"The check bounces and the scammer makes off with your 'real money'," explained Lottery Vice President of Security Bill Cox. "E-mail and telephone scams work similarly, but the con-artist typically takes time to build a rapport with the victim who eventually either sends in money or divulges personal information thinking it's needed to claim the prize. The scammer makes off with the money or worse, uses the information to commit identity theft. Either way, the victim never receives the 'promised' prize money."

  The Lottery recommends looking for these basic red flags that a prize notification is a scam:

1. The notification asks you to keep your "winnings" a secret - a ploy to keep you from sharing the information with family members who may help you realize that it's a scam.

2. You haven't purchased a ticket for the particular game or entered the particular drawing in which the prize was won. Every legitimate lottery business model requires the payment of prizes from funds collected through the sale of tickets.

3.  You are asked to make up-front payments for processing fees, taxes or insurance in order to collect the winnings. No legitimate lottery will ever require up-front payment of any kind from winners to claim a prize. Any taxes or other required withholdings are deducted from the prize funds.

4.  You are guaranteed that you will win a prize if you pay to join a pool. Legitimate lotteries do not require that players join a pool in order to play and cannot guarantee that an individual ticket will win a prize.

5. You are asked to communicate by phone, mail or e-mail with an overseas entity in order to claim the prize. Gambling across state lines through the Internet, phone or mail is illegal for a reason -- to protect U.S. consumers. Online gambling companies are not regulated and often sell their customer lists to others, including scammers.

Finally, the Lottery will never contact prize winners directly to notify them of winning, unless they participated in a second-chance drawing. In a second-chance drawing, players write their contact information on the back of a nonwinning ticket and mail it to an address printed on the ticket to enter the drawing by a certain date. In these instances, winners may be contacted by phone or registered mail by the Lottery, but will NEVER be required to pay anything in advance to collect their prize.  

 In addition to protecting themselves from illegal lottery scams, the Lottery encourages players to practice responsible play when enjoying the its games. While the vast majority of adults who participate in gaming do so responsibly as a form of entertainment, in a given year, 1.5 percent meet the criteria for pathological gambling and another 2.87 percent have a less significant but still serious problem known as problem gambling in Louisiana. 

 The Lottery offers these tips for responsible play:

 Think of the money lost as the cost of entertainment.
 Set a dollar limit and a time limit.
 Accept losing as part of the game.
 Don't borrow money to gamble.
 Don't let gambling interfere with family, friends or work.
 Gamble only for fun, not to win back losses or as a way to cope with emotional or physical pain.
 Learn the warning signs of problem gambling.

 The Lottery provides players with an All Games Guide,  which explains the games rules and procedures,  an Illegal Lottery Scams brochure, as well as the Office of Addictive Disorders' Problem Gambling Hotline Cards in all Lottery retailer play centers. The Lottery's website also contains complete rules for playing its games and information on claiming prizes, as well as guidelines for responsible play and problem gambling resources.