By Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt
My office receives calls and complaints from consumers who have been told they have won a prize such as cash, or a cruise, television or electronic device. These folks have been surprised to learn this because they do not recall entering the sweepstakes. Sadly, they are likely being scammed. If you receive a letter, email or phone call saying you’ve won, be cautious. Scammers often use the lure of prizes to steal your money and your personal financial information.
I often am asked how to know if a prize you’re offered is a scam. Scammers will follow the exciting news that you’ve won with a request that you first send them money to cover taxes, fees, shipping or other costs — even though it’s illegal in most places, including Kansas, to require purchases or the payment of fees and taxes upfront before you can receive a prize. Also, remember, the Kansas Lottery is the only legally operating lottery in Kansas. Anyone claiming you have won a foreign lottery is in violation of Kansas law.
In some cases, the scammers may send you a legitimate looking check that is supposed to cover those so-called taxes and fees. But once you deposit the check in your account and then wire the money back to them, the check turns out to be fake and any amount you advance the scammer will be lost. Additionally, your bank may charge you overdraft fees.
Our Consumer Protection Division staff works hard to crack down on these phony checks and fraudulent wire transfers. People are getting wiser about avoiding them, so fraud artists are coming up with other ways to get you to send them money. For example, they may ask you to order expensive items online, such as computers and big screen televisions, and have them delivered directly to the scammer. Many of these sweepstakes and lottery scams originate in other countries.
Suggestions to identify a scam:
- Never give personal information, such as your social security number or bank account number, to someone you don’t know who calls you or sends you an email or letter.
- Never agree to wire or send money in order to claim a prize. It’s illegal to require an upfront fee for a prize, so anyone who asks you to pay one is a scam artist.
- Be very skeptical. If you don’t remember entering the contest, it’s probably a scam.
- Never deposit legitimate looking checks that come with a letter telling you that you “have won.”
- Report possible scams to the Attorney General’s Office by calling our Consumer Hotline at 1‑800‑432‑2310 or go to our web site at www.ag.ks.gov.
To reduce the number of sweepstakes offers and solicitations you receive:
- Sign up for the Do Not Call Registry, by calling 1‑888‑382‑1222 or by going to www.donotcall.gov.
- Don’t enter any sweepstakes or buy anything through a sweepstakes.
- Have your name taken off of mail marketing lists. Write to: Direct Marketing Association Mail Preference Service, PO Box 64, Carmel, NY 10512.
- Use a reliable spam filter to cut down on phony emails about sweepstakes and lotteries.