This summer, an elderly Miami Valley couple lost a considerable hunk of their life savings to a sweepstakes promotion. The husband received a phone call claiming he won over a half million dollars (roughly $600,000) from Consumer Protection Bureau for the Holiday Sweepstakes. He was told to send $6000 to cover associated fees. Following the instructions, he went to his bank and got a bank check for the amount and sent it to a PO Box in Virginia and waited for his windfall. But, the alleged sweepstakes company called again after receiving the first check and said the elderly gentleman needed to send more money ($42,000) to a PO Box in Nevada. Unfortunately, the couple has never received their winnings and is out a total of $48,000. The sweepstakes win seemed like an answer to the couple’s financial need as they planned to use the prize money to pay for medical bills associated with the wife’s illness.
BBB does have a Business Profile on the company allegedly hosting the sweepstakes and contacting the local couple: Consumer Protection Bureau. This entity has listed several addresses in Arlington, VA on its web site over time, but BBB has been unable to confirm an actual, physical location for the group. According to information provided by the BBB of Southern Nevada, the listed Las Vegas address is not a building location. Mail sent to the business was returned by the U.S. Postal Service as “Undeliverable as Addressed.” Consumer Protection Bureau has an F rating with your BBB. BBB rates companies from A+ to an F, similar to the education system. Factors that affected the companies rating include:
- Failure to respond to two complaint(s) filed against business
- BBB concerns with the industry in which this business operates
Reports of sweepstakes/lottery/prize scams to BBB Scam Tracker total nearly 2,000 in the first half of 2017, accounting for six percent of total reports to BBB Scam Tracker during that timeframe. These scams were the third most reported scam in 2016 and accounted for seven percent of reports.
BBB offers the following advice to protect yourself from these scams:
- Don’t confuse bogus sweepstakes companies with genuine federal agencies with similar names. For instance, despite its official sounding name, Consumer Protection Bureau is not a government agency. Consumers should be alert to the fact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which is a genuine federal government agency, has no relationship to this promotion.
- Keep in mind you’ve got to play to win. A notification you’ve won a prize in a contest you don’t remember entering should be a red flag. If you do regularly enter contests or sweepstakes, keep track of your entries so you can easily check to see if you’ve actually entered a contest that contacts you.
- Be suspicious of irregular communication. Real sweepstakes will not notify you via text or bulk mail. They won’t send a check in the mail without first confirming with you. And, you won’t be notified that you are a winner and have to respond or act within 24 hours to collect your prize.
- Don’t send money to a sweepstakes company by wire or green dot card, which essentially makes it impossible to stop the transaction.
- Remember, you’ll never have to pay upfront to claim a free prize. No legitimate sweepstakes company will ever ask you to pay a fee or buy something to enter or improve your chances of winning — that includes paying “taxes,” “shipping and handling charges” or “processing fees” to get your prize.
- Be aware a check can bounce even after your bank allows you to withdraw cash from the deposit. Even if a bank representative tells you a check has “cleared” you can’t be sure it won’t be detected as a fake weeks later. One thing you can be sure of is you will be on the hook for any funds drawn against the amount.
John North, BBB serving Dayton/Miami Valley president and CEO, shares, “Whether you receive an e-mail, phone call or letter from someone claiming you’ve won a prize, be skeptical. And, don’t let the inclusion of a check to cover fees lead you to believe the notification is on the up and up. Take time to check it out. BBB can always help. Just call (937) 222-5825 or (800) 776-5301 or visit our Web site at bbb.org
. And, you can always report scams at BBB Scam Tracker, bbb.org/scamtracker
. By reporting it here, you help us investigate and warn others.”
About Your BBB Serving Dayton and the Miami Valley
For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people and businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2014, turned to BBB more than 165 million times for BBB Business Reviews on more than 4.7 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org
. BBB serving Dayton and the Miami Valley is one of 109 local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico. BBB serving Dayton and the Miami Valley serves seven and half Ohio counties, including Clark, Darke, Greene, Miami, Montgomery, Preble, Shelby and northern Warren counties. Your Dayton-based BBB is unique in that it provides business solutions and consumer services in specialized areas to other BBBs, businesses and consumers. It remains focused on the Miami Valley, but through these key products and services, it is an international organization.