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How to Avoid Lottery Scams

SCAM artists are getting even more creative in trying to rip you off. Several new tricks involve bogus claims that you have won a prize.

CA Lottery's Donna Cordova reveals the con and explains how to avoid falling victim.

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Divisions & Programs

Divisions & Programs


The division is comprised of sworn peace officers and non-sworn support staff. The investigators and support staff work on investigations that begin in the field or headquarters, and wind through the criminal and administrative review process. It is an efficient, effective and reliable means of assuring that all matters under investigation or review receive thorough and comprehensive examination. The Security/Law Enforcement Division includes the following units:

Field Investigations

The Field Investigations Unit is responsible for conducting criminal and administrative investigations involving Lottery products throughout California. They provide service to over 21,000 retail outlets throughout the state. Lottery Investigators are the primary law enforcement resource conducting criminal investigations whenever there is a crime related to Lottery products, players, or prizes. There are two to three Investigators assigned to each of the ten Investigative Offices throughout the state. Lottery Investigators act independently or work with allied law enforcement agencies in the course of their investigations, while presenting sustainable criminal cases for prosecution. They possess specialized knowledge, skills and abilities that aid them in the investigation of criminal acts when Lottery products are stolen or compromised.

In each of the five California State Lottery Regions (Sacramento/Central Valley, Bay Area, Los Angeles Basin, Santa Ana/San Diego, Inland Empire), a Field Lieutenant provides leadership, guidance and supervision to the investigators. The Lieutenants interact with their counterparts in other district offices to identify and monitor Lottery-related crime patterns and trends, while developing information and evidence to identify criminals. Through the use of tried and true police investigative practices, and with the assistance of technological tools, the Lieutenants and investigators demonstrate high levels of success in their efforts to detect and prevent Lottery-related criminal acts. Field Lieutenants report to the Field Chief who is assigned to CSL headquarters and oversees statewide investigative activities. The most common investigations involve burglaries, robberies, embezzlements, and other thefts or fraud where Lottery products are stolen. Lottery Investigators also investigate matters where a player may have been the victim of fraud or theft involving Lottery products.

Lottery Investigators are also tasked with conducting “compliance” investigations to determine whether or not retailers of Lottery products are conducting their business in accordance with Lottery Regulations, state and local laws. Examples of such investigations include but are not limited to:

  • Underage gaming enforcement, where investigators send a person obviously under the age of 18 into a Lottery retail store to purchase a lottery product
  • Retailer compliance operations to confirm retailers are properly handling winning Lottery tickets and being honest with players
  • On-site monitoring of retailers who are on probation for administrative or criminal violations in order to assure they are complying with all laws, conditions of probation and Lottery policies related to contractual obligations

Lottery Investigators often participate with local and state law enforcement agencies on joint enforcement operations, crime suppression task forces, and search/arrest warrant services involving suspects accused of Lottery related crimes.

Reported CrimesFY 2012-13FY 2013-14FY2014-15
Burglaries 343 296 292
Stolen Property 102 253 247
Petty Theft 176 237 307
Sales to Minor 101 132 124
Robberies 72 44 68
Illegal Gaming Devices 23 35 25
Grand Theft & Embezzlement 72 97 117
Forgery 35 17 49

Special Investigations & Gaming Security Unit

The Special Investigations and Gaming Security (SIGS) Unit is responsible for confidential and sensitive investigations associated with, but not limited to: criminal acts, administrative review of retailers, contractors and Lottery employees; retailer misconduct, submission of questionable claims, validating big winning tickets, background and internal personnel investigations. The unit is comprised of a Lieutenant, Investigators, analysts, and support staff.

The unit receives more than 3,000 phone calls annually through the 1-800-Lottery line. The inquiries come from various sources, but primarily from retailers and their employees, players, and the public who report different kinds of issues related to the Lottery; i.e. theft, burglaries, robberies, embezzlement, lost Lottery tickets, suspected criminal activity and other crimes. Reports of criminal activity are also received via the “Report Fraud” link on the CSL website, and assigned for response and/or investigation. Staff routinely addresses issues by initiating crime or incident reports, and prevents the redemption of stolen tickets by “flagging” (electronically deactivating) them in the internal gaming database. They also conduct investigations of suspicious claims related to altered, forged, or counterfeit tickets; conduct criminal investigations of claims involving stolen and illegally obtained or submitted tickets, physically monitor the ticket printing process and approve new Scratchers® games at vendor printing facilities.

SIGS Investigators also conduct background investigations to examine the personal, professional, and criminal history of all prospective and current Lottery employees, initiate disclosure investigations into the background of potential Lottery contractors (when a significant contract is being sought), inspect contractor facilities, and conduct annual reviews of major contractor disclosures.

The California Lottery is one of few state or provincial lotteries that are equipped with a full ticket testing laboratory. This laboratory constitutes a “state of the art” testing facility which provides forensic examination of questionable tickets submitted for prize payment, and an extensive testing of new production-run Scratchers tickets to gauge effectiveness of the Scratchers tickets’ security features, quality and durability. The laboratory provides the assurance of the highest quality standards for our players in conformance with thresholds set by the World Lottery Association.

Retailer Services Unit

The Security/Law Enforcement Division’s Retailer Services Unit evaluates the criminal history background of retailers seeking to sell Lottery products to determine their suitability pursuant to Lottery Regulations. There are more than 21,000 California Lottery Retailers and that number continues to grow. In FY 2013/14, the Retailer Services Unit processed 1,988 applications in which 1,132 new Lottery retailers were approved.

In addition to processing applications, the Retailer Services Unit works in conjunction with Lottery Investigators to ensure retailer compliance with operating procedures, contractual requirements, regulations, and policies. The Unit also oversees appeal pleadings, probation monitoring, and the inspection of the small number retailers who receive occasional complaints.

Draw Management Unit

The Lottery’s Draw Management Unit works 365 days a year to ensure all online and 2nd Chance draws are conducted with the utmost integrity and security. The Draw Management staff performs an average of 189 draws per month. During FY 2013/14, the Draw Management Unit held 2,333 draws and remotely participated in hundreds of Mega Millions® and Powerball® draws. There are a number of protocols in place to ensure all draw results are unpredictable and the chance of bias in any part of the draw process is eliminated.

To assure all draws are conducted fairly and honestly, the draw environment is strictly controlled and all draw-related activities are performed under video and audio surveillance. Access to the draw room is limited to staff members who must be accompanied by a contracted auditor or security guard. Every step of every draw is witnessed by a member of an independent accounting firm (contracted auditor) who verifies that draws are conducted and documented in accordance with Lottery procedures. Draw results are routinely analyzed by an independent statistician to ensure results remain random for every game. In addition, the Draw Management Unit’s activities are regularly audited by internal and external entities for vulnerability assessment.

Physical Security Unit

The Security/Law Enforcement Division’s Physical Security Unit is responsible for the security of all Lottery products, facilities, employees, vendors and visitors through the management of a 24-hour/7-day-a-week, statewide comprehensive physical security system. The system is comprised of surveillance cameras, access control, intrusion detection, fire systems monitoring and visitor management at all 13 Lottery facilities. These components are responsible for the safety of more than 700 Lottery employees working at the Headquarters facility, district offices and distribution centers.

Uniformed security guards, provided by contract with Andrews International Inc., are posted at selected Lottery facilities throughout California to monitor the security system and to provide a physical presence to deter any acts which may compromise the safety of the facility or employees. They report unusual activity, patrol Lottery facilities, and provide guardian services on an around the clock, seven-day-a-week schedule.