Advanced fee sweepstakes are any kind of sweepstakes where you have to pay a fee before receiving some kind of gift or prize. The scheme can work in a variety of ways. The victim is often contacted through email, phone, or mail with a message that announces the individual has won a prize. One common type of advanced fee sweepstakes scam is the lottery scam, where the victim is told he or she has won a prize through a lottery.
How Do Advanced Fee Sweepstakes Work?
An advanced fee scam occurs when the victim gets a letter or other communication that says he or she has won either some amount of money or a prize. The card will give instructions on who to contact to claim the prize. After contacting the company, the victim may be told they need to pay some kind of fees in order to have the prize or winnings transferred. The prize, however, will not ever arrive.
For example, in one type of advanced fee scam, the victim is told to initially dial an 800 number to claim the prize. Once the victim has called the toll-free number, he or she usually goes through some "verification" steps, such as entering a code that was listed on their mailed notice. The victim is then told to call a 900 number in order to receive the prize. When the victim calls the number, he or she will be charged a certain amount per minute. The phone call will usually be long, sometimes accumulating around $20 to $40 in charges, and sometimes even more.
Another scheme occurs when a telemarketer calls the victim to tell them they have won a lottery, or or another contest and are about to receive a large sum of money. The telemarketer may say that before they can send you the prize, you must send them a specified amount of money to cover the amount of federal taxes owed.
What’s the Catch?
The catch is simple: you will not receive any money or prizes. The amount of money you spent on that phone call or the amount you paid in "taxes" is kept by the scammer.
What Should I Do If I Have Been Contacted by a Scam?
If you have been contacted by a sweepstakes scam, you can report it to local or state consumer protection agencies. You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC oversees deceptive advertising and can bring an action against the defrauders.
Additionally, if you have been contacted through the mail about a scam, you should also file a complaint with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, which will investigate any potential mail fraud. Finally, filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau will help alert other consumers.
Seeking Legal Help for an Advanced Fee Sweepstakes Scam
You may want to consult a consumer lawyer who has experience in consumer fraud issues. Your attorney will be able to advise you as to what options you have, and what would be the best course of action for you to take. You may even be able be compensated for the money you lost to the scam in a lawsuit against the scammer.