Recently our BBB® heard about a common scam resurfacing in our area. This scam, and some very similar, have been around for many years, but new twists or popularity seem to cause increases in victims from time to time.
The scams we are discussing are sweepstake and lottery scams, which can be very tempting to unsuspecting consumers. Victims often receive a call or letter in the mail pretending to be with Reader’s Digest, Publisher’s Clearing House or a phony foreign lottery sharing the exciting news that the victim has won a prize or money. The most recent scam uses the name of Publisher’s Clearing House.
The letter or caller will explain to the victim that as a stipulation of receiving their prize, they must first cover the taxes, administration costs or a bogus fee that must be wired back to the scammer first. Victims may or may not be provided with a check up front, which is supposed to be a portion of their “winnings”. They are directed to deposit these funds, then wire the fees.
If a check is received and deposited in the victim’s account, the funds may initially show up, but once their financial institution determines the check is fake, the funds will be deducted and fees may be incurred. The victim is also out whatever “fees” or “costs” were associated with the prize, wired back to the scammer.
Scammers may look to target vulnerable demographics too, such as senior citizens. They may also request secrecy in efforts to thwart any help victims.
Victims have reported requests for hundreds or even thousands of dollars to be wired for these scams, and unfortunately many funds have been lost.
Your BBB advises you to never wire money to someone you don’t know, nor believe that you have won a contest that you didn’t enter. You should never have to send money to receive winnings either, no matter how convincing the request.
If you believe you’ve been a victim of a sweepstakes or lottery scam, you can report it to bbb.org/scamtracker, to share with your BBB and the community. You may also report items suspected of mail fraud to your postal inspector or calls to the Federal Trade Commission (877-382-4357) or using the FTC complaint assistant on FTC.gov. Suspicious emails may be forwarded to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information you can trust, visit bbb.org/evansville.