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Sweepstakes “Winner” Promised Safe Containing Prize Money

Scammers are finding a new way to trick consumers into thinking they have won millions of dollars in a sweepstakes. A woman in Tennessee was contacted by a man stating she had won money in a sweepstakes specifically for the elderly – the twist? The man would be sending her a safe in the mail that contained her winnings – all she had to do was safeguard. She was told that a key would be arriving soon if she paid the taxes on her winnings – a whopping $43,500.

The victim was instructed to write two personal checks made out to the scammer and his co-conspirator. A day after the checks were deposited, the scammer showed up at the victim’s doorstep stating more money was needed to receive the key. With the scammer behind the wheel, the victim was driven to her bank where she withdrew an additional $22,500.  After the scammer demanded to use the victim’s cell phone, she called 911. Local police were able to catch and arrest all perpetrators involved.

To spot a lottery or sweepstakes scam, consider the following:

  • You must pay. Legitimate sweepstakes don’t make you pay a fee or buy something to enter or improve your chances of winning — that includes paying “taxes,” “shipping and handling charges,” or “processing fees” to get your prize. There’s also no reason to give someone your checking account number or credit card number in response to a sweepstakes promotion.
  • You must wire money. You may be told to wire money to an agent of “Lloyd’s of London” or another well-known company — often in a foreign country — to “insure” delivery of the prize. Wiring money is like sending cash: once it’s gone, you can’t trace it or get it back. The same goes for sending a check or money order by overnight delivery or courier or putting money on a prepaid debit card.
  • You’re required to deposit a check they’ve sent you. When you do, they’ll ask you to wire a portion of the money back. The check will turn out to be a fake, and you will owe the bank any money you withdrew.
  • They claim they’re from the government or another organization name that sounds official. The FTC doesn’t oversee sweepstakes, and no federal government agency or legitimate sweepstakes company will contact you to ask for money, so you can claim a prize. If you’re unsure, contact the real companies to find out the truth.
  • You get a call out of the blue. If you never entered the Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes in the first place, receiving a call that you did is definitely a scam.

Source: Better Business Bureau of North Alabama and Knox News

If you would like to report a scam, call your BBB at 256-533-1640 or go to the BBB Scam Tracker. To find trustworthy businesses, visit bbb.org.