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Sweepstake scam plays to dreams of getting rich

November 26, 2018

You’ve won — a new car! Millions of dollars! Cash for life! The crazy thing is you don’t even recall entering the contest. It’s a con that plays on our desire to “get rich quick” and, all too often, it works.

HOW THE SCAM WORKS: You receive a text message, email or even a letter in the mail claiming you’ve won millions of dollars or another high value prize through Publishers Clearing House. The correspondence seems legitimate. It’s complete with official seals and contact information for the contest organizer.

The catch? You are responsible for paying shipping and handling, insurance, taxes and other fees before you can claim your prize. Scammers may pressure you to pay quickly and using alternative payment methods, claiming that if the fees aren’t paid in this specific way and right on time, you’ll forfeit your prize money.

A few thousand dollars may not sound like much compared to the millions you’ve just won. However, con artists keep asking you, the “lucky winner,” to pay again and again. But it’s never enough to get the funds transferred. Of course, in the end, your prize money never existed.

The real Publishers Clearing House is a BBB Accredited Business with a good rating, and it never asks people to pay upfront fees for anything. The company is frequently mimicked by scammers because of its reputation for real prizes. Like most imposter scams, the con artists steal the good name of a legitimate company in order to fool their targets.

HOW TO AVOID THIS SCAM: Be wary of unsolicited correspondence. If you receive a notice out of the blue and can’t recall entering the contest, it’s likely a scam. Look for typos and misspellings. They are tell-tale signs of a con.

Never pay fees to claim a prize. You should never have to pay any fees upfront before receiving winnings. Not even taxes.

Keep track of any contests you enter. You can’t win a contest you didn’t enter. If you often enter contests and sweepstakes, keep track of them. This will help you spot a fake contest.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: For more about scams, go to BBB Scam Tips (BBB.org/ScamTips).

If you’ve been the victim of this or any scam, report it to BBB.org/Scamtracker to help others avoid falling into the same trap.

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