By Robb Hicken/ BBB’s chief storyteller
A scammer calling Treasure Valley residents about a huge sweepstakes had no catchy comeback for Kathie Hilliard.
“I answered the call and was told I had won $5.5 million, a car and an all expense paid cruise from Publisher’s Clearing House,” she says. “When he finished telling me I’d won, he asked me how I felt about such a big winning.”
Looking at the phone number 876-387-6554, listening to the accent, and knowing she’d never entered the PCH Sweepstakes at any point, she responded.
“I told him it was pretty amazing, especially because I have never entered a contest,” she says.
His comeback to her was this – “You probably just didn’t remember entering when you shopped at CVS or Walmart.”
Hilliard said he mentioned several other stores she didn’t even recognize, before she says, “I told him we don’t have most of those stores in our area, and that I never shop at Walmart.”
But the scammer wasn’t going to give up: “Are you sure?”
“I replied, ‘Yes! I know where I shop and you haven’t named one store, yet,’” she says.
He hung up.
“I guess that means I didn’t really win, huh!?” she says.
Record the call if you can, or take notes and then contact the BBB – Write down the phone number. Then, contact BBB at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208)342.4649.
You must enter to win. Remember lottery tickets must be purchased and sweepstakes must be entered to win. Sweepstakes usually involve application paperwork that you have personally completed and government grants have a thorough application process as well.
Never pay any money to collect supposed sweepstakes winnings. If you have to pay to collect your winnings, you’re not winning. Legitimate sweepstakes don’t require you to pay “insurance,” “taxes” or “shipping and handling charges” to collect your prize.
Never wire money. Scammers pressure people to wire money through commercial money transfer companies because wiring money is the same as sending cash. When the money’s gone, there’s very little chance of recovery. Likewise, resist any push from the caller to send a check or money order by overnight delivery or courier. Con artists recommend these services so they can get their hands on your money before you realize you’ve been cheated.
Phone numbers can deceive. Internet technology allows con artists to disguise their area code so it looks like they’re calling from your local area. But they could be calling from anywhere in the world.
Ask Questions. If the caller has a difficult time answering any “off script” questions, this is a red flag that it’s not legitimate.
Never give personal information. Scammers can be very charming and charismatic and will lure or pressure for personal information.
Foreign lotteries are illegal. Foreign lotteries violate federal law and participating in any way is illegal. The only legal lotteries in the United States are state-run.