Scam Watch

Don't send cash to get purported sweepstakes prize

July 06, 2008|By Dan Thanh Dang

In a new twist on an old scam, con artists posing as government officials are telling consumers that they have won a sweepstakes prize.

The Federal Trade Commission is warning consumers that crooks are taking advantage of Internet technology to make it appear as if they are from a federal or local agency calling from Washington or even the consumer's hometown.

To avoid getting conned:

*Don't pay to collect sweepstakes winnings. If you have to pay to collect, you haven't won anything. Legitimate sweepstakes don't require payment for insurance, taxes, or shipping and handling charges to collect your prize.

*Hold on to your money. Scammers try to pressure people to wire money through commercial money transfer companies because wiring money is the same as sending cash. Once the money is gone, there is very little chance of recovering it.

*Look-alikes aren't the real thing. It is illegal for any promoter to lie about an affiliation with, or an endorsement by, a government agency or any other well-known organization. Disreputable companies sometimes use a variation of an official or nationally recognized name to try to confuse you and give you confidence in their offers.

Phone numbers can deceive: Some con artists use Internet technology to fool you into believing they're calling from a certain area code when they're actually calling from anywhere in the world.

*Take control of the calls you receive. If you want to reduce the number of telemarketing calls you receive, place your number on the National Do Not Call Registry. To register online, go to To register by phone, call 888-382-1222 from the number you wish to register.

*If you receive a call from someone claiming to be a representative of the government trying to arrange for you to collect supposed sweepstakes winnings, file a complaint at Your complaint should include the date and time of the call and the name or phone number of the organization that called you. Although scammers may call using a telephone number that disguises their location, law enforcers may be able to track that number to identify the caller.

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