(WHTM) — It all starts with a simple call, email, or letter claiming that you’re a big winner.

The America Association of Retired Persons (AARP) says that this is the catch – these calls, emails, and letters will all tell you that you need to pay a fee, taxes, or customs duties to claim your prize money. The scammer may even ask you for your personal banking information, tell you to send a wire transfer, or suggest that you buy a gift card and give them the numbers on the back of it.

Here are some important things you should know regarding scams:

  • The lottery never charges players to claim their prize.
  • A lottery official would never contact you about winning a jackpot before an official claim form is filed.
  • There’s no way to win a lottery prize if you don’t play the lottery.

This is what you can do to help protect yourself:

  • If you receive a notification in the mail, look at the envelope. If it was sent bulk rate, it means a lot of other people got the same thing.
  • Hang up on cold calls claiming to be from well-known contests, like the Mega Millions Lottery. They won’t randomly call you to tell you you’ve won.
  • If you get a call from a number with an 876, 809, or 284 area code, don’t call back. Those codes belong to Caribbean Countries that has been hotbeds for contest frauds and phone scams.

According to the FTC, criminals used lottery scams to steal $225 million.