HIGH POINT — The COVID-19 vaccine lottery that has given a lucky few North Carolinians the surprise of winning a $1 million prize or $125,000 in college scholarship money has spun off an unwelcome side effect.

Con artists are trying to rip off people who have either gotten vaccinated or plan to do so to qualify for the drawings.

State officials on Thursday will announce the second set of Summer Cash and Summer Cash 4 College winners, with two more series of drawings scheduled in the next few weeks.

State Attorney General Josh Stein said that some people have been contacted by people purporting to be state lottery organizers. One warning sign centers on requests for making upfront payments before you can receive your supposed winnings.

“The scammer may pretend to be from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services or the N.C. Lottery and will either call, text or email to say that you’ve won $1 million,” Stein said in a press release this week. “They’ll ask you to send money, gift cards, pay a fee or make a donation to receive your prize. These are all scams — you never have to pay fees to win a prize.”

Also, as part of the COVID-19 vaccine lottery, state officials won’t ask for personal financial information such as bank or credit card account numbers. Seeking financial account access is another common tactic of a con artist.

The vaccine lottery isn’t the only coronavirus pandemic response that scammers have tried to use to cheat people. The Better Business Bureau of Central and Northwest N.C. reports that consumers need to be cautious about offers that are falsely presented as COVID-19 relief opportunities. The advice includes:

• Be wary of online contacts about pandemic offers that appear to be from relatives or friends. Email messages, social posts and direct messages could be from a hacked or impersonated account.

• Never pay money for a so-called free government grant. A true government agency won’t ask you to pay a processing fee for a pandemic grant you have been awarded.

• Make sure that a government agency or other group actually exists as represented. Find information and background on your own and call them independently to ensure the entity you’ve heard from is legitimate.

pjohnson@hpenews.com | 336-888-3528 | @HPEpaul

pjohnson@hpenews.com | 336-888-3528 | @HPEpaul