We’ve all received them. Our “lucky day” notification of winnings, lottery prize drawings, jackpots and more. But now “luck” is taking on a whole new twist, with government grant offerings, checks in the mail, offers to reduce interest rates and even offers to return unclaimed funds. Not all of these offers are bogus, but consumers are rightfully careful, even cynical, when offers arise and often turn to their BBB for help.
So when CAN you believe your luck has turned? Your BBB provides tips, trends and information below to keep you safe and prepared for “luck” that comes your way.
1) “Lotteries, Prize Drawings and Cash, Oh My!”
To determine legitimacy, start with what you know. Where did the notification come from? U.S. citizens are not eligible for foreign winnings and prize drawings, so if your postmark is foreign, it’s likely a scam. Unsolicited offers received by text or the internet are likely bogus too. Other signs of bogus offers include:
Do you believe something if you have received in the mail is a scam? Take your letter to your local post office and the postmaster can review for post fraud.
2) “Will the Government Really Provide Me Grants to Reduce debt or Start a Small Business?”
Generally, grants are provided for very specific projects, to serve a social good or to provide research. Funding is free, so should never require a fee. Funds may be offered by the government or private foundations, but both usually require that applicants meet very specific guidelines and there are specifications to how funding must be used. Obtaining a grant is often a complicated process too, requiring documentation and research, so beware of offers to reduce personal debts or pay for personal needs.
Want to check out government grants currently available and the requirements necessary to obtain them? Visit www.grants.gov for a list of current government offerings.
3) “They Didn’t Ask For Anything…Just Sent Me a Check For Part of My Winnings!”
Read on. Sometimes this scam plays out in the following way. The check sender relies on you having a good relationship with your bank, who may readily cash a check for a loyal customer. Your next step is to call and get further directions for receiving the rest of your funds. You are directed to wire a part of the provided check to finalize the transaction. It can take upto 90 days for your bank to determine an account is bad or has no funds to back it, but by then it is too late. You have wired the money (which is non-traceable) and are now accountable to the bank to pay back the bad check amount. You may also incur insufficient fund fees, fraudulent check fees or other fees from your bank for this heartache. Talk about your serious bad luck!!
4) “I’m due a break on this interest rate!”
Who would turn down a better interest rate on their credit card or loan?! Your BBB has received lots of calls from consumers wondering if these offers are legit and with this one, it just depends…. Some callers receive calls from “Cardholder Services” or their “Credit Card Service Department” with a recorded message noting they may be due a lower rate. The consumer is then prompted to “press 1” or another number to "opt out". By pressing any number, you have just verified that you have a working telephone number that may be spoofed. These are considered "robocalls", are illegal, and not used by banks and credit companies to contact their customers, so should be reported to the Attorney General's Office in your state- even if you are not on the do not call list. Another place to report calls of this nature is the Federal Trade Commission, whose number is 877-382-4357.
To seek a true reduction in interest rate, consider instead contacting your current credit card company. Let them know you are shopping for a lower rate and them ask for any current promotions or offers. Another option is to check out credit card companies with your BBB, then contact them on their current rates and promotions.
5) “Is it really my money?”
Maybe. Millions of dollars in assets and property are turned over as “unclaimed” to the Attorney General’s office each year. The Attorney General’s Unclaimed Property Division works to return these assets to their rightful owners.
These assets can include:
The Attorney General’s office has a free on-line database where you may check to see if any funds are waiting for you at: http://www.IndianaUnclaimed.com/.
If you have heard of unclaimed funds by a different means, research, and proceed with caution. Some “finding” companies may offer to make you aware of such information at a cost, when actually the information can be accessed free of charge. To learn more about a company that has contacted for this purpose, contact your BBB.