DAYTON — Each year, your Better Business is flooded with calls and inquiries about sweepstakes and promotions received by people in the Miami Valley. Unfortunately, some of these claims that say you’re a winner are simply lottery and sweepstakes scams. These scams involving gifts and prizes are an ongoing problem and your BBB offers tips on how to avoid them.
While some of these promotions are from legitimate companies, thousands are from scammers looking to separate you from your hard-earned money. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Americans lose billions each year to these types of scams.
These scams arrive in the mail, online or even on your mobile device. They lure you in with promises of gifts of all sizes: jewelry, vacations, vehicles, cash, etc. If you do fall for the scam, chances are you’ll never see your money again. On a daily basis, people are sending money for prizes that aren’t worth the money sent. Some don’t receive a prize at all. With the recent explosion of mobile devices and other technological devices, scam artists are finding new ways to prey on innocent people.
Before you respond to a contest or sweepstake notice, your BBB offers a few tips:
• Remember, you can’t win a contest you didn’t enter.
• Never click on a link in an e-mail or text message from an unfamiliar person or organization offering free gifts or prizes. Delete these messages.
• Don’t provide personal information like credit card numbers, bank account information or social security numbers to strangers.
• Remember prizes are free. Never wire or use prepaid debit cards to claim a prize. No taxes or fees should have to be paid prior to receiving the prize. It’s illegal for a company to require you to buy something or pay a fee to win or claim a prize.
• Be wary if you have to deposit a check sent to you and wire a portion of the money back. The check will turn out to be fake and you’ll owe the bank any money you withdraw.
• Beware of scammers using company names identical or very similar to well-known, legitimate sweepstakes operators. Tell them you’ll get back to them and contact the actual company to ask if there is any connection.
• Be cautious if your notice was mailed by bulk rate, which means other people got the same notice, too.
• Get the details in writing. Legitimate sweepstakes companies will give you written information about how a contest works, including the odds of winning, the value of the prizes, the fact that no purchase is necessary and an explanation that buying does not improve your chances of winning.
• Beware: if it sounds too-good-be-true, it most likely is.
Remember, if you think you’ve been targeted by a scam, contact the Ohio State’s Attorney office at 800-282-0515 or the FTC at 202-326-2222. Also, if you have any questions regarding any of these potential scams, visit www.bbb.org/dayton or call your local BBB at 937-222-5825 or 800-776-5301.
John North is President and CEO of the Miami Valley Better Business Bureau. Reach the BBB at 937-222-5825 or 800-776-5301.