Avoid Getting Swept Away in Fake Sweepstakes
March 11, 2015
Consumer answers their phone and a stranger immediately says, “Congratulations, you are a winner.” Over the past several weeks, reports of these types of calls have increased. Arkansans are being targeted by con artists posing as representatives of sweepstakes companies promising cash prizes.
Every year, thousands of Arkansans are notified by mail, e-mail, or phone, that they are winners in a sweepstakes or lottery. These million dollar prize packages or new cars can be tempting, but Arkansans should resist. These scammers usually ask for a “processing fee” related to the prize but it is a ruse to pocket the “fee” and steal financial information.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s consumer alert on this common scam to caution Arkansans not to fall victim to these sweepstakes con artists.
“Con artists are looking for quick and easy ways to steal consumers’ money,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “What better way to do that than to convince consumers that they have won a big sweepstakes prize and need to pay a small fee to receive it? Arkansans should always remember that if they have not entered a sweepstakes competition or lottery it is highly unlikely that they are indeed a legitimate winner.”
Callers to the Attorney General’s Office are reporting receiving unsolicited phone calls from an individual claiming to be with Publishers Clearinghouse, a well-known sweepstakes company to most Americans. These callers are promising that consumers are winners and that if they pay a one-time fee, a representative of Publishers Clearinghouse will be on the way to present the consumer with their “winnings.” Most of the time these “winnings” are described as cash, but sometimes are a car or vacation package. Almost all of these calls request the consumer to wire money to a location outside the United States or provide the scammer with the number of a prepaid debit card.
By indicating that the “winnings” are ready to be delivered, these con artists can sound legitimate, but it is highly unlikely that the scammer knows the consumer’s location.
Legitimate sweepstakes or lottery winners are hardly ever notified through an unsolicited call, and legitimate businesses, such as Publishers Clearinghouse, would never require winners to wire money to receive a prize.
Regardless of how the consumer is notified, once the consumer turns over bank account information or wires the funds, there is a good chance the consumer will lose more money when their personal financial information is compromised. When money is wired to a foreign country, it is very difficult, if not almost impossible, to get it returned.
Attorney General Rutledge offers the following tips to consumers to avoid falling victim to sweepstakes scams:
- Consumers should not try to collect winnings from a sweepstakes they don’t remember entering.
- Never give out personal financial information.
- Do not pay any money up front in an attempt to claim a prize.
- Always remember, if it looks or seems too good to be true, it most likely is.
Consumers should ignore the bogus sweepstakes prizes and immediately call the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division to report the call and the number from which it originated. Consumers can contact the office via the Consumer Protection hotline at (800) 482-8982 or by visiting www.ArkansasAG.gov.