With Canadians in a frenzy to get a piece of the U.S. Powerball draw, consumer advocates say people should exercise caution before forking out cash for tickets.
No one matched the Powerball numbers this weekend, meaning the already-record setting prize is now at an estimated $1.3-billion US – almost $2-billion Canadian.
The next draw is Wednesday, and the odds to win are close to one in 300 million, according to the Multi-State Lottery Association.
It’s expected that thousands of Canadians will cross the border to buy hard-copy tickets in advance of the draw, and many more will purchase tickets online using reselling agents.
While people in Canada can use third-party concierge sites to buy the tickets, what the resellers are doing is actually illegal in Washington State and federally.
For the most part, some states are turning a blind eye to the online sellers, but the Better Business Bureau warns that people should be careful using these agencies.
There are no current rules and regulations around these, says spokesperson Evan Kelly, adding that you have to trust the company is actually buying the ticket for you.
The BBB advises online buyers to take time and seek out legitimate ticket sale sites, and read user reviews before making a purchase. Look for Https:// in the web address and a lock icon in the website URL.
“It’s very easy to quickly set up a fake Powerball ticket website,” Kelly warned.
He says to be wary of sites that ask for information beyond a home address and credit card information.
“I’d be concerned if they’re asking for a Social Insurance Number. That’s a red flag,” said Kelly.
The safest way to buy tickets is actually driving to the U.S. and buying them in person, the agency says.
But even that could pose a problem for Canadians, thanks to a little-known border law that prohibits people from importing any lottery ticket into the U.S.
One man who tried crossing the border with nine B.C. lottery tickets on Christmas Eve had all of them seized by U.S. customs.
Washington lottery officials say the safest strategy for Canadian players could be to keep any tickets they purchase south of the border until the actual draw takes place.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection didn’t return CTV News’s calls on Monday.
Given the astronomical odds of winning the lottery, Kelly said people should think twice before “betting the farm” on tickets, no matter how they’re purchased.
“Statistics say you have a 25 times better chance of becoming President of the United States,” he said.
Canadians are eligible to win the grand prize, but will have to give up one-third to U.S. taxes before that cash is brought north of the border.