Local Couple Has Close Call With Sweepstakes Scam

BBB is issuing a warning to area residents about a sweepstakes scam recently reported in the Cincinnati area. The offer looks like a legitimate offer from the well known Publisher’s Clearing House company telling recipients they won millions. It includes a toll free number to verify the winnings. But here’s where it gets tricky. Once the recipient calls the number, they are then told to send a check or money order to cover taxes and ‘other’ expenses for their prize. An elderly Cincinnati couple came close to becoming victims of this scam.

The couple received a mailing with the promise they won $1.5 million dollars as long as they called the toll free number in the letter. The husband did call as instructed. The wife became alarmed. She contacted BBB because her husband was following the instructions in the letter as well as what the caller told him to do including sending a check for $6,000 from their personal checking account. After speaking with a BBB representative and reviewing the real Publisher’s Clearing House website, the husband relented and did not send the check.

Thanks to a BBB representative and an attentive spouse, disaster was avoided. This could have potentially cost the couple $6,000 or more and the scammers would have had access to the couple’s bank account by way of the personal check.

This type of scam has taken on a couple of different forms over the last several months using email, phone and standard postal service all using various company names. The real Publisher’s Clearing House company has a message on the homepage about several scams using their name. Here is how you can spot a sweepstakes scam:

  • Beware of any sweepstakes requiring a fee for entry and of any prize promotion requiring you to send in a payment or purchasing merchandise.

  • It is not the prize promoter’s responsibility to charge the winner for tax; they will just report your winnings to the Internal Revenue Service and the IRS will bill you for the appropriate taxes.

  • Read the description of the prizes carefully for inaccuracies or inconsistencies.

  • Do not be swayed by high-pressure sales tactics of promoters.

  • If you do not remember entering a sweepstakes or buying a ticket in a lottery, you most likely have not won a prize.

It is important to note there are several legitimate, popular businesses out there who are often victimized by schemes. Several of these schemes are by email or phone targeting the elderly.  In this case, Publisher’s Clearing House has taken an aggressive and proactive approach by posting an alert on their homepage to inform consumers how their sweepstakes operates which clearly states winners do not have to pay anything out of pocket to claim their prize.

Protect yourself, your identity and your bank account. Start with someone you Trust. Visit bbb.org. Also, take advantage of the FREE seminars your BBB has available regarding scams against seniors. Contact Sandra Guile, Public Relations Specialist for more information.

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About Sandra Guile

Sandra is the PR Specialist for BBB Cincinnati, promoting BBB's message of marketplace ethics through public speaking engagements, presentations, blogging, media relations, press releases, web content and other written materials. Her goal is to connect with consumers and business owners in a trustworthy environment and encouraging best practices.