The Better Business Bureau has been receiving numerous calls from WV consumers concerning two separate sweepstakes offers asking for money in advance.
The BBB began receiving phone calls late last week from consumers who received a letter by mail from National Direct, Inc. stating they were the lucky winner in the second category of Publisher's Clearing House and compensation draw. The prize amounts varied between $65,000 - $750,000 which is to be paid via certified check and delivered by special courier.
Consumers are then instructed to cash the enclosed check ranging anywhere from $350 - $4,000. Consumers are to keep a portion of the check for themselves and send the rest via Western Union or MoneyGram to pay for governmental service taxes and insurance. After the money is wired back to Publishers Clearing House at the address provided, the checks bounce, the scam artists get their money, and the consumer is responsible for the entire check amount.
In correspondence sent to the BBB by a consumer, Austin Moore was listed as the file agent to contact for further instruction of where to send payment to cover the government service tax and insurance payment. Phone numbers for both National Direct Inc. and Austin Moore are located in Toronto, ON, Canada.
Furthermore, checks received by consumers appear to be sent from maricopa, Inc. which is a community college in Arizona who has an A- rating with the BBB. The checks have been verified to be counterfeit and not legitimate. The checks are issued by Norwest Bank Arizona which is no longer in existence, but rather, merged with Wells Fargo back in the 1990's.
The BBB also became aware of a second sweepstakes offering up to $250,000 in prize money. A local consumer told the BBB she received a call from an undisclosed person stating she had won money in a Readers Digest Sweepstakes. The caller instructed her to get a prepaid card and put $199 on the card. Once the consumer bought the card, they were instructed to call back. Once the $199 was paid, the consumer would receive their prize money. The phone number consumers were instructed to call is located in Jamaica.
Amanda Tietze, Vice President of the WV Better Business Bureau states "Everyone is struggling right now with the state of our economy. Many people are in real dire straits and any amount of unexpected funds would really turn their situations around. Unfortunately, they are only worsening their financial condition if they are paying these scam artists upfront fees for prize money they will never see".
The Better Business Bureau advises any consumer receiving similar letters, phone calls and/or checks from an unknown source to not cash the check or provide money in advance. If consumers are uncertain the check or prize offer is legitimate, consumers should call the BBB, ask their bank, or contact their local Postal Inspector for further investigation.