BBB is alerting you to be wary of phone calls, emails, and letters promising large sums of money from a sweepstakes. After a tip-off from a Glen Burnie consumer, BBB noticed an insurgence of scammers attempting to swindle optimistic and naive consumers.
BBB staff have been researching a high frequency of calls about sweepstakes. Despite ongoing training to help consumers spot fraud, BBB staff has to work really hard to combat the temptation created by these clever solicitations.
The Maryland consumer reported to BBB she was told by phone she had won 5.5 million dollars and other gifts including a red BMW convertible, Geico Insurance and a gas card for a year. Allegedly, the sweepstakes was sponsored by Gold Rush Casino, an unidentified magazine publisher, and Better Business Bureau of Las Vegas.
The consumer was instructed to call back ths sweepstakes company giving them the time to assess Maryland regulations for "winners." The return call to a New York landline resulted in directions to wire transfer $485.27 to cover related fees.
Another phone number used by the victim to claim the award was also traced to Jamaica. According to other reports by victims, calls to those numbers go unanswered.
When money is wired to unknown individuals, through services like Western Union, there is little recourse. Last year alone the Federal Trade Commission reported about 10,000 complaints a year from consumers about gifts, sweepstakes and prize promotions. In the same year, U.S. consumers reported paying $1.7 billion in fraudulent charges - a category separate from identity theft.
Suspicious or fraudulent awards should be reported to BBB. In addition, those received through the U.S. Postal Service should be reported to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at 877-876-2455. If the sweepstakes is received via phone, attempt to gather as much information as possible and file a complaint with www.ftc.gov. Any emails should be forwarded to www.ic3.gov