Your BBB® has written about lottery/sweepstakes schemes in the past, but they continue to circulate and we continue to receive calls from “lucky” consumers who have received a call or letter about sweepstakes or lottery winnings.
In case you haven’t heard of these schemes before, here’s how they work.
Consumers typically receive a call or letter claiming that they’ve “won” a sweepstakes or lottery. The caller or letter may claim to be from a whole host of organizations, for example, Publisher’s Clearing House, Mega Millions Lottery, Prize Notification Center and many others. Generally, the calls/letters state to claim your winnings all you have to do is send some amount of money to pay for “taxes” or “delivery.” That amount varies but is usually asked to be sent via wire transfer or pre-paid card. Unfortunately, the winnings don’t exist, and you are out any money you’ve sent.
According to the Indiana Attorney General’s office, Hoosiers are reporting calls similar to this claiming to be from the Indiana Gaming Commission. In one case reported to the AG, a victim wired $6,000 to a bank overseas and only when he was asked to wire $2,000 more did he catch on to the scheme. The AG’s office reminds consumers that the Indiana Gaming Commission does not offer sweepstakes and would never contact you for this purpose. The AG’s office also states: “the Hoosier Lottery is the agency that distributes lottery winnings in Indiana and they do not initiate contact to winners over the phone and will never ask you to pay any fee to claim the prize.”
Your BBB has the following tips for you.
1.If you have to pay money, you haven’t won money. If you’ve truly won a prize, lottery or sweepstakes, you shouldn’t have to pay money upfront to obtain your winnings. Think of it this way: why can’t they just take the taxes/fees out of your winnings?
2. If a check is included with a letter, don’t deposit it. Scammers may send a check in the mail to the victim with the instructions that “in order to receive the full prize” he or she must deposit the check and wire back a portion of the funds to cover fees or taxes. This gives the victim a false sense of security because the check will clear initially, but will eventually bounce. You will then be on the hook to the bank for the funds withdrawn and for any fees associated with a check that doesn’t clear.
3. If a caller claims to be affiliated with another organization, verify that information with that organization directly. Some schemers may tell you that they are going to connect you with BBB or a government agency so your winnings can be “verified.” Inform them that you would feel more comfortable calling the organization yourself, and then do so using the phone number or contact information located on that organization’s website.
4. Don’t be rushed. Some schemers may tell you that you online have a limited time to claim your winnings or they’ll be forfeited/lost. This type of pressure is often a red flag indicating a possible scam.
5. Never give your personal information out to someone you don’t know.
6. Report the call or letter. If you’ve received a call or letter that you believe is a scam or were a victim of this type of scam, you can report it to the Federal Trade Commission by calling 1-877-382-4357 and/or your state’s Attorney General as well as your BBB.
For more information you can trust, visit bbb.org/Evansville.