BBB sweepstakes advice holds true: Heavy accent dead ringer for scam

By Robb Hicken/ BBB’s chief storyteller

Jean’s not the gambling kind. She’s a good, law-abiding citizen of Idaho Falls who has no debt – per se, goes to church on Sundays – except when the snow’s too deep, and always greets her neighbors – by name, of course.

When she was awakened Wednesday morning by a stranger claiming she’d won $850,000 in the MegaMillions sweepstakes, she was more than confused.

“He said that I was selected because I always pay my bills on time, which automatically entered me into the drawing,” she says.

She was excited at first.

The man, with a heavy accent, told her she just needed to go to Walmart and get a MoneyPak Paper Scratch Card for $185 and call him back.

That’s when she remembered hearing a radio interview with BBB about the sweepstake scams.

Nearly $300 million have been lost by people falling for scams originating in the area code 876-. When Jean reported the incident to BBB, she said the area code was from an 876- number. Nearly “30,000 calls are made into the U.S. from Jamaica attempting to defraud” American citizens every day.

Remember:

  • 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.
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