There are some standard guidelines you can follow to avoid being taken in by these sweepstake scams. The first thing you should do is as soon as you get an offer by mail or over the phone to enter some kind of sweepstakes or pay money for some prize, make sure you know the following information:
- Who: Do research into the company making the offer. Just because they have legitimate sounding name does not mean they are necessarily on the up-and-up. Remember, many scammers use company names that sound very similar to actual legitimate companies that offer sweepstakes like Publishers Clearing House
- What: Does the offer sound too good to be true? Are you being told that you have won a prize in a contest you do not even remember entering? If a stranger over the phone or through the mail is offering you a whole lot for very little or nothing in return, you should immediately be skeptical about the deal and either just disregard it or do some investigating.
- How: What is the procedure for getting your money or prize that you are being offered? If you have to pay any money ahead of time you should immediately be suspicious. Also, remember that you should never give out any confidential financial information over the phone such as your credit card or bank account numbers. You would not give a stranger the keys to your house, so why give them the keys to your money?
There are also a couple other rules that should be followed to avoid being scammed:
- You should not pay money just to increase your chances of winning. Buying products offered by the contest holders will never increase your chances of winning
- You may receive a call from a telemarketer saying that you have won a large sum of money. They may even claim to be a representative of a legitimate company such as Publishers Clearing House. However, if they claim they cannot give you the money until you pay them for the federal taxes on the money, hang up the phone. Remember, federal taxes are only paid to the IRS, and only after you receive the money that is being taxed.
What Should I Do If I am a Victim of a Sweepstakes Scam?
You will probably want to file a complaint with your local police and perhaps even the FTC against the scammers. You may also want to consult a consumer rights attorney. Your attorney can let you know what options you have and help you decide what the best course of action is. You could even be eligible to be compensated for the money you lost in a lawsuit against the scammers.