Avoiding a Sweepstakes Scam

Seven On Your Side
October 7, 2008 8:57:56 AM PDT
Each year billions are lost by American's in bogus sweepstakes scams. And now, given the economic crisis, postal authorities say scammers are stepping up their efforts to separate you from your hard earned money. "It's terrbile, it's terrible," said Anna Carfagna, choking back tears while speaking to Seven On Your Side's Tappy Phillips. "This was a dream I was hoping to help somebody."

In August Anna got this official-looking notice. It said she won a $1.2 million sweepstakes. She was going to give the money to her church pastor. "The pastor's wife has cancer. I wanted to help," Anna said.

But Anna says the scammers kept asking her for processing fees. So Anna wired them $7000.

Now, Anna has a daily reminder of her loss. Each week she receives bundles of bogus sweepstakes offers in the mail.

Postal inspectors say the scammers operate in other countries where they're harder to track. Many are based in Nigeria, where recently local authorities arrested a band of suspected con artists, reportedly looking for victims online.

"We've actually gone to Nigeria with them and shut down numerous cyber cafes, numerous arrests and numerous fake instruments seized," said United States Postal Inspector, Allan Weissmann.

As for Anna, authorities say it's doubtful she'll ever see that seven grand again.

"It's an old phrase," Weissmann said. "but I can't think of a better one. If it sounds too good to be true, It probably is.

There's a few simple rules. Be very wary when hearing you've won a sweepstakes you never entered. Also, never, ever pay a dime in order to get sweepstakes winnings or some sort of inheritance you hear about in a mysterious mailing or email.

For more information go to: http://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/radDocs/consumer/ncvrwmain.htm

Story by: Tappy Phillips
Produced by: Steve Livingstone