FROM THE BBB -- The Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving the Kansas Plains, Nebraska. South Dakota and Southwest Iowa is warning about another sweepstakes scam. A senior consumer from Wausa NE reported receiving a phone call informing him that he had won $450,000 through the American Family Network.
But before funds are made available, the caller told him he would have to pay $4,500 in advance “due to the government’s ‘Patriot Act’ that requires recipients of large amounts of money to pay 1%.” When the consumer said he did not have the money, another person called later to tell him they got a $3,000 loan for him and he would only have to send a cashier’s check for $1,500 to receive the $450,000 prize.
When the consumer did not send the requested funds, he received several calls from an “attorney” from Las Vegas and his “secretary” claiming that they represented American Family Network and tried to convince him to pay the $1,500. The man told the “attorney” that that he had contacted the Better Business Bureau and was informed that he should not have to pay anything to collect a sweepstakes prize. When asked, the consumer gave him the phone number of the BBB in Omaha. The “attorney” assured him that he would have someone from the BBB call him.
Shortly after, the man received a call from “Linda Brown” at the BBB. Brown spoke with a Jamaican accent, but the caller ID indicated that the call came from 402-391-7612, the BBB’s main phone number. When questioned, Brown stated that she was located at the address of the BBB in Omaha and continued to try to get him to agree to send the $1,500. Instead, he called the BBB and spoke with a real BBB staff person who confirmed that there was no Linda Brown employed at the BBB.
BBB President Jim Hegarty stated, “The Better Business Bureau has absolutely no affiliation with this fraudulent operation. I advise consumers to be extremely leery of letters, faxes, emails or phone calls telling them they’ve won prizes, lotteries or sweepstakes. Remember, phone numbers can deceive.
These sweepstakes calls sound wonderful and it would be nice if even one of them was legitimate. However, they’re not. Internet technology allows con artists to disguise their area code so it looks like they’re calling from your local area. But they could be calling from anywhere in the world. Many of these calls come from boiler rooms in Jamaica, and anyone playing along with them guarantees the only real winners will be the scammers.”
If you get a call telling you that you are a winner, BBB recommends that you look for these red flags:
• Lottery tickets must be purchased. Sweepstakes usually involve application paperwork that you have completed.
• Don’t pay any money to collect supposed sweepstakes winnings. If you have to pay to collect your winnings, you’re not winning — you’re buying. Legitimate sweepstakes don’t require you to pay “insurance,” “taxes” or “shipping and handling charges” to collect your prize.
• Hold on to your money. Scammers pressure people to wire money through commercial money transfer companies because wiring money is the same as sending cash. When the money’s gone, there’s very little chance of recovery. Likewise, resist any push from the caller to send a check or money order by overnight delivery or courier. Con artists recommend these services so they can get their hands on your money before you realize you’ve been cheated.
• A lottery application or win announcement comes via telephone or mail from outside the country.
• The letter, fax or email is full of grammatical and spelling errors.
• The caller is pressuring for personal information.