Congratulations! You're the Latest Sweepstakes Scam Victim
It starts off innocently enough. You receive a congratulatory phone call or letter informing you that you've won a prize in a lottery or sweepstakes. The cash prize sounds great, especially during this economic downturn. The only hitch is a minor one; before any winnings are delivered, you must pay fees, taxes or other charges. Considering all the money you have just won, the amount requested seems small and reasonable compared to your winnings.
Congratulations! You're the recipient of a sweepstakes scam. The only prize you will receive is an overdraft notice from your financial institution if you attempt to spend your winnings.
Scams involving lotteries or sweepstakes are very common and tend to target consumers age 70 and older. With the present economic downturn, it is more important than ever to be cautious when receiving an offer that seems too good to be true.
Protect yourself from sweepstakes scams with the following tips:
- Know who you're dealing with and confirm the company's name, address and phone number through agencies like the Better Business Bureau.
- Don't give out your credit card, checking account number or write a check unless you are sure who you're dealing with and what you will be receiving.
- Resist high-pressure sales tactics and insist on time to think and discuss offers with trusted friends, family members or financial advisors.
- Report any suspicious offers to your local police or financial institution. Either agency will offer help in determining the legitimacy of the offer.
During hard economic times scammers are also contacting individuals claiming to hold stimulus checks in your name, or they may contact you with an offer to be a mystery shopper or a similar job that sounds too good to be true. As tempting as these easy money opportunities might sound, you should always trust your better judgment and contact Consumer Protection, the Better Business Bureau or your local financial institution if you receive such an unsolicited offer. These organizations can advise you if the opportunity is the real deal, or just a scam. Also, you should never have to pay an employer for work. If they ask you for money there's a very good chance that something is up.
An educated, cautious consumer is the number one defense against scams like these.