Sweepstakes & Lottery Scams a Top Problem in Colorado

March 18, 2014

‘You’ve won millions,’ not the luck of the Irish but a pricey scam

DENVER – In the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day, many may feel lucky when they see what appears to be a prize offer in the mail but the Better Business Bureau of Denver/Boulder warns sweepstakes scams are one of Colorado’s top problems. The BBB receives numerous calls on a daily basis from hopeful citizens inquiring about the authenticity of a mail or phone notification offering a substantial prize. Unfortunately, the BBB verifies they are always scams.

Not only is this category of fraud common in the metropolitan area, it is a clear problem across the state of Colorado. According to ElderWatch, a program with the Colorado Attorney General and the AARP Foundation, complaints about prizes, sweepstakes and lotteries were No. 1 on its list in 2013. ElderWatch says the average amount of money lost in such a scam in Colorado is $11,565 and the average victim age is 75.

Nationally, complaints about prizes, sweepstakes and lotteries ranked No. 6 in 2013 with the Federal Trade Commission. Victims of mail fraud should contact their local postmaster or the U.S. Postal Inspection Service by phone, toll-free at: 1-800-372-8347 or online at postalinspectors.uspis.gov. Other forms of sweepstakes/lottery fraud attempts can be reported to ElderWatch at 1-800-222-4444, option 2.

To help consumers identify a sweepstakes scam, the BBB provides the following:

  • Are you asked to make a purchase in order to get your prize? According to the Deceptive Mail Prevention and Enforcement Act, if you have won something, you should not have to pay a penny or purchase anything to receive it.
  • Are you asked to wire money? Many times scammers will instruct you to wire money to cover the fees, such as processing, administrative or tax fees, before you receive your prize. Once you’ve wired money there is very little chance of getting that money back.
  • Be cautious of look-alikes. Scammers often use names of government agencies and well-known organizations to try to confuse you and give you confidence in the winnings claim.
  • Did you receive this notification via bulk rate mail? According to the FTC, it is highly unlikely that you’ve won a big prize if your notification was sent by bulk rate.

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About the BBB

The BBB is an unbiased nonprofit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Businesses that earn BBB Accreditation contractually agree and adhere to the organization’s high standards of ethical business behavior. The BBB provides objective advice, BBB Business Reviews, BBB Charity Reports and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. To further promote trust, your BBB also offers dispute resolution services for consumers and businesses. The first BBB was founded in 1912. Today, there are 113 local, independent BBBs across the U. S. and Canada. Please visit denver.bbb.org for more information.