Senior Citizens Targeted in our Service Area
The Better Business Bureau is issuing a warning regarding an organization posing as both the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes and/or a Reader’s Digest Contest. Some consumers in BBB’s service area have been sent fraudulent certificates that congratulate them on winning the “Publisher’s Clearing House” Sweepstakes. Other consumers have been called from “Reader’s Digest,” and were informed that they had won a sizable amount of money.
An Omaha consumer recently received a check for $1,680 with a letter telling her that she had won the second prize of $100,000 in the “Publisher’s Clearing House” Contest. The letter stated that she was obligated by Federal law to keep this information confidential, and was given a toll-free number to contact the “Internal Revenue agent” handling her file. The “agent” informed her that the check was to insure her prize money. Luckily, she became suspicious and notified the BBB. She did not deposit or cash the check.
Several other senior citizens from Lincoln, Nebraska received calls from a person claiming to be a “Reader’s Digest” representative. One consumer was told that she had won $118 million and that the scammers would need to pick up a check for $250 at her home. Another woman was informed that she had won $6.2 million. She was to wire $2,700 through WalMart, along with an additional $100 to pay for the transfer.
A third elderly consumer from Denton, Nebraska received a phone call from a person claiming first to be with Publisher’s Clearing House and then from Reader’s Digest. She became suspicious and told the caller that she was going to contact the BBB. He responded, “No, keep this confidential,” and provided a Jamaican phone number. He then instructed her to go to WalMart or Kmart and send, via MoneyGram, $550 for handling fees to a man in Virginia. She was told she would be reimbursed for the $550 within three business days, and someone would be at her door at 4:30 pm that day with the prize money. Then, she was supposed to drive to her bank and the person delivering the money would follow her there. Frightened, the consumer called the BBB. She was told to inform the police immediately.
“This is a foreign lottery scam that is currently targeting many local consumers. By using familiar sounding names and titles, it tries to lure victims into sending monies to secure fraudulent winnings. When someone tells you to keep information regarding your winnings confidential, that is a red flag,” said Jim Hegarty, BBB president and CEO. “Besides losing significant amounts of money, victims can also be charged as an accessory when they transfer money in fraudulent schemes.”
BBB advises any consumer receiving similar letters or checks from unknown sources not to cash the check or send any money. Be wary of phone calls saying you have won a prize. The real Reader’s Digest notifies all winners by mail, not by phone, and its notification letter includes a toll-free number for their headquarters. You should always check with BBB before claiming any kind of prize to be certain it is legitimate.
Be suspicious if people ask you for money to claim a prize. Common scams include asking winners to prepay taxes, to pay shipping and handling charges, to send a deposit or other bogus expenses. Also, never send money to someone you do not know. Con artists ask you to wire money, send it by overnight courier, or provide bank account information so they can debit your account. Don’t be foolish with your cash. Never pay anything to receive a prize.