LOS ANGELES (CBS Newspath) — The Mega Millions drawing is tonight with a jackpot of over a billion dollars. And that has scam artists trying to capitalize on the opportunity and rip people off.

Consumer cyber security experts say they’re seeing a spike in lottery scams, from bogus websites claiming to sell Mega Millions tickets to scams promising a lotto windfall.

“In many ways it’s like a perfect storm for scammers. They have a large prize pool that people are attracted to and you’ve got people who are very susceptible and vulnerable,” says Zulfikar Ramzan, the CEO and Chief Scientist of the cyber security company Aura Labs.

Ramzan says in the most common scam, criminals call or text people telling them they won the jackpot. “And in those scams, they are usually asked to make some form of pre-payment, like pay your taxes up front, or give us a smaller temporary payment in exchange for a much bigger one later. And of course, the temporary payment is made, but the bigger payment never shows up,” Ramzan says.

There are also fake websites offering to sell online Mega Millions tickets. “Of course, these are not official lottery tickets,” says Ramzan

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Experts say if you want to buy a Mega Millions ticket you have to go to an authorized retailer.
And if you are a lucky winner, lottery officials will never ask you to pay anything up front.