One of the biggest problems in the world of sweepstakes in the constant worry of being scammed. Unfortunately, the thought of winning can cause people to be a little more gullible than normal. Although con artists may have slightly varying methods, sweepstakes scams tend to follow a similar pattern.
The Set Up
Generally speaking, each scam will start out with a letter, email or phone call letting you know you’ve won something. It all sounds incredibly realistic so you aren’t worried about it being a scam. However, Colleen Tressler, a writer for consumer.ftc.gov, says, “Here’s what happens next: they tell you there’s a fee, some taxes, or customs duties to pay. They ask for your bank account information, or ask you to send money via a wire transfer or to purchase gift cards and provide the card numbers.” This should be a huge red flag. When you win something from a reputable company, additional costs such as shipping are covered for you. When someone asks you to pay, it’s a pretty blatant indication that you’re being scammed.
Asking for Money
The above mentioned article also states, “Any way you send it, you lose money instead of winning it. You don’t get a big prize. Instead, you get more requests for money, and more promises that you won big. Scammers can be very convincing, and who wouldn’t want to win big!” Don’t fall for this trap. Understand that if you send money in order to ‘claim your prize’, the scammers have won. They will likely try to keep you on the hook for more money. Trust your intuition. If things aren’t adding up, confide in a friend to get a second opinion. Or take to the internet to research whether or not you’re truly being scammed.
How Common is the Problem?
Tressler of consumer.ftc.gov also states, “Lottery and sweepstakes scams are one of the most common consumer frauds operating today. According to the FTC, these scams were the third-most common type of fraud reported to the agency in 2017.” Primarily, these scams come in the form of mailers and tend to target the elderly population. The FTC is aware of this problem and is taking it seriously. However, if you come across a scam, report it to the FTC by going to ftc.gov/complaint.
What can you do?
First things first, never give your bank or personal information to anyone claiming to need it. Be extremely wary of anyone who claims to need money wired or gift card information. These are sure signs of a scam. Additionally, talk with your friends and family about scams you come across in your mail, computer or over the phone.
It’s important to be aware of potential scams circulating your community. Take special care to talk about these issues with your elderly loved ones. Unfortunately, they are the people who are most susceptible. These small conversations and reminders are an excellent way to ensure they are protected.