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No, You Have Not Won the Lottery

Fake sweepstakes scams have been increasing "at an alarming rate," according to the Bucks County Office of Consumer Protection.

 

Q.      My uncle is always calling me to tell me he won something whether it’s a car or money.  So far I’m able to steer him away by explaining that it’s a scam.  They seem to come by phone and mail and he is inundated with them. 

Usually I can keep him from falling for it but this time he received a check in the mail.  He is arguing with me this time because the check looks so real.  He is being told to deposit it in the bank and then he has to send it for taxes before they can send him the big money. 

Can you enlighten him and me concerning this real looking check? 

S.H., Upper Black Eddy


A.      It’s a scam! This is not how legitimate sweepstakes operate. 

If you have really won, you will pay taxes directly to the government after you receive your winnings, not before.  You would never be asked to wire the money. 

Unfortunately, we at the Bucks County Consumer Protection office have seen these bogus lotteries and fake checks scams increasing at an alarming rate.

Crooks often pretend to be from well-known companies in order to gain people’s trust. A familiar company name doesn’t guarantee that it’s legitimate. Try to find the company’s contact information independently, either online or through Directory Assistance, and then contact the company yourself to verify the information.

Even though we have warned people against these scams, the con artists continue to get victims.  These lotteries are all bogus and consumers need to realize that if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. 

If you receive any mail or phone calls telling you that “you have won” do not respond.  If you respond you will get someone who will direct you to wire money for a number of bogus fees and taxes.  Some even send checks to cover the costs. 

The checks do look real, but they are counterfeit and if you deposit them in your account they will bounce.  Your bank will hold you personally liable for the amount of the check. 

The reality is that consumers are falling victim to these scams and are left with no money and no recourse.  It is almost impossible to track these scammers down. 

Keep in mind that if you did not enter a sweepstakes or lottery you cannot win.  The idea of winning the lottery does sound great, but the truth is, you will end up losing.

M Hanson August 12, 2012 at 03:44 PM
This is a very old trick. They ask for the tax payment to the IRS up front. Then they take your check and change the "I" in IRS to an "M" Then the check can be written to anyone with the prefix Mrs example Mrs. John Doe
Wendy Saddler August 12, 2012 at 06:27 PM
This stunt is also being pulled with Mystery Shopping Jobs. There are lots of legit Mystery Shopping agencies out there, but many are not. I just encountered one that tried to use a legitimate company's name to perpetrate this. Fortunately, I called the police when I got the check, because there were too many suspicious things about it. I learned that the person who supposedly sent this to me, was a victim herself, who had her FedEx account hacked, and they were sending these phony checks out everywhere under her name!! These despicable people need to be stopped and stopped now before they do real damage!!
CyD252 August 13, 2012 at 04:17 PM
I've always wished that schools would touch on the subject of "How to Recognize a Scam." It's knowledge from which everyone can realistically benefit. Kids today should know how to look at the destination of a URL, even if it's masked. They should learn about "phishing" and "social hacking." They should know that credit card companies NEVER call you, and ask you for your card information. They should know you can copy and paste a string of a dozen words from a suspicious-looking e-mail into Google, and research it in seconds. I teach this stuff to my grade-school kids, but it saddens me that many kids in their classes remain vulnerable, and may lose hundreds, or thousands of dollars, decades in the future.
Eric S September 18, 2012 at 01:51 PM
Trust no one, question everything. What a horrible thing we need to teach our children. But we do.

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