Sweepstakes and lottery scammers are giving their brand of larceny a reboot, getting a little bit more sophisticated. And it's working - last year the FTC reported rip offs in the triple digits. Nearly $170 million was stolen. Instead of winning cash or prizes, consumers lost an average of $1,000 apiece.
The Better Business Bureau says losses from sweepstakes fraud is on a three-year high up 35%.
Scammers' primary target is people over the age of 55.
The deception starts when a scammer reaches out to you with either a phone call, an email, a piece of direct mail, or a social media notification offering congratulations for winning some big contest.
But there's one big catch, you'll be asked to pay a fee, taxes, or even customs duties to claim your prize.
One letter states a big win and even sends out a phony check for $2.3 million bucks, but to claim it you have to send off a fee to the scammers.
Scammers often use familiar company names. In one, it's Honda awarding a free CR-V. The catch is you have to pay hundreds for shipping.
On social media, the bait is a thousand dollar Amazon Gift card, but there is no prize and you'll have to fork over tons of personal information, making you a target for ID thieves.
The big takeaway:
1) Never pay for a prize. That's a sure red flag to a scam. Scammers will ask for you to pay them by wiring money or purchasing gift cards, giving scammers the code on the back of the card. Sometimes they even stay on the phone with you when you're buying them.
2) If you're scammed, report it to the FTC and the BBB. If you compromised your bank account information, let your bank know.
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