Consumers in Chicago and northern Illinois have contacted the Better Business Bureau (BBB) to report receiving phone calls from individuals stating that they have $450,000 waiting for them to claim. Often, the callers say the money is winnings from a sweepstakes or an award from a grant. The BBB warns consumers that these calls are a scam.
Lutina Cooper who lives in the Chicagoland area received a call stating she and her husband were the winners of the Mega Millions Publisher Clearinghouse Sweepstakes. Mrs. Cooper told the BBB, “The caller said his name was Michael Sanchez. He said in order to receive the money, my husband would have to pay $900 to start the process.” The Coopers had considered getting a “Title Loan” on their car in order to pay the $900. Luckily, before they did, they called the BBB.
Helen Nutt of Rockford also received a call. Mrs. Nutt said “He told me his name was William Dunn and was calling from the Federal Consumer Protection Agency and that the Agency got a notice that I had $520,000 from Publishers Clearinghouse that I had not claimed. He gave me a claim number and a phone number to call. The man who answered said I could re-activate the prize by paying 1% of the winnings.”
Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois says, “Consumers need to always keep in mind that to win a legitimate sweepstakes or lottery, there should never be any costs involved. In fact, it is illegal under Federal law to require any form of payment.”
Bernas also noted, “These sweepstakes phone scams tend to occur geographically, moving around to different areas of the country at different times of the year.”
Publishers Clearinghouse who has a yearly sweepstakes says they never ask for money and their “no purchase necessary” message is prominently displayed on all of their promotional materials. Also, the company says all prizes over $10,000 are awarded in person and they never call in advance.
The BBB has these tips to avoid being scammed in one of these calls:
- Hang up – If you receive any unsolicited call with a story that sounds too good to be true, hang up.
- Wire Transfers – If you are asked to send money via Western Union, MoneyGram, or using a pre-paid debit card, DON’T.
- Taxes on your prize – In a legitimate sweepstakes, taxes will be deducted from your winnings or you will pay them directly to the government.
- Guard your credit card and bank account numbers – No legitimate sweepstakes company will ask for this information. Your social security number may be required for tax reporting purposes if you have won. Don’t provide that information unless you’re absolutely sure that you entered the contest and that you know the company operating it.
- Be on guard for imposters – Some scammers use company names that are identical or very similar to well-known, legitimate sweepstakes operators. Tell them that you’ll get back to them and contact the real companies to ask if there is any connection.
- Be wary of offers to send you an “advance” on your “winnings” – Some con artists use this ploy to build trust and get money from your bank. They send you a check for part of your “winnings,” instructing you to deposit it and then wire payment to them for taxes, bonding, or some other phony purpose. The bank tells you the check has cleared because the normal time has passed to be notified that checks have bounced. After you wire the money, the check that you deposited finally bounces because it turned out to be an elaborate fake. Now the crooks have your payment and you’re left owing your bank the amount that you withdrew.
- Get the details in writing – Legitimate sweepstakes companies will give you written information about how a contest works, including the odds of winning, the value of the prizes, the fact that no purchase is necessary and an explanation that buying does not improve your chances of winning.
For more information, visit www.bbb.org/chicago, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.
The BBB is a non-profit, non-governmental organization. It is supported by businesses to protect consumers against scams and other unethical business practices. The group accomplishes this by educating both consumers and businesses, and by highlighting trustworthy businesses. By developing reports and ratings on businesses and charitable organizations, the BBB encourages people to use these as resources and referrals to utilize the free services before making a purchase or donation. The BBB helps resolve buyer/seller complaints through its alternative dispute resolution process. In 2013, the BBB provided more than 22,600,000 instances of service. Over 80 percent of consumer complaints to the BBB were resolved. The Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois is a member of the international BBB system that services the United States, Canada and Mexico.
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Block numbers u wont get these
I’m thinking there are people on here who have never seen a phone like that 🙂