We have all seen the ads for a famous publishing company’s lucrative giveaway.
I am always impressed by the fact that the so-called winners just happen to be standing behind the door and answer on just one ring of the doorbell. And they seem to be all dressed up as if they were expecting company.
Perhaps it is because they have returned the prior mailing card announcing they might be eligible for a large prize. Perhaps they were put on notice that the gifters would be in the neighborhood on a particular day and they might be contacted.
Regardless, this program actually has a drawing and someone does win a prize. As a result, many scammers try to capitalize on this fact.
The scammers use the good name of the organization and submit phony information as to how to claim the prize. It generally follows up with a request for money to cover ”administrative costs” and various fees.
At this point, it should be apparent that this a fraud and further contact should be stopped. But often that is not the case.
Every year thousands of people still fall for this ploy and believe they will win the jackpot. On a global basis, the net cost that is scammed amounts to more than $12 billion.
The publishing company has such a reputable background that some will not consider that a fraud could be attached to this promotion. Most of the victims are seniors who have a great belief and trust in the company.
This crime is so flagrant that consumer organizations and even the publishing company are trying to head off the crooks by issuing alerts on a continual basis.
When the scammer receives the notifying card they previously sent out back at their office, they try to develop a relationship with the victim by calling them before explaining the “fee” arrangement.
One of their favorite ploys is to send a phony check that is classified as a down payment on the ultimate prize and telling the victim to deposit the check. Then they should wire a portion of this money back to pay for the costs involved.
The scammers hope this is done before the check bounces and the scam becomes apparent.
To make these scams more believable, names of actual employees are used in mailings to the victims. A search of the real publishing company’s employee list provides the information required.
There are a few ways to determine if lotteries or other drawings are a scam or not. Did you buy a ticket? If not, then you did not win. The publishing company will not require you to pay for anything.
If there is a follow-up phone call and the voice has a foreign accent or uses poor English, you can be sure it is a scam. Many of these calls come from Nigeria, while some originate from Jamaica.
If you are asked not to discuss this contest because of confidentially rules, it is a scam.
No legitimate contest, sweepstakes or lottery ever asks for an advance fee to claim winnings.
Your odds of winning a sweepstakes of a million-dollar prize is more than a billion to 1. Even a “small” prize of $3,000 will have odds of 1 in 130 million.
To ensure you will not be contacted in the first place, keep as much personal information off the internet as possible.
Giving phone numbers, addresses, birthday information, family data and other private material online increases the odds that you will be contacted by a scammer of some sorts.
If there is doubt regarding the publisher’s prize, a check with the company will authenticate the drawing.
Observation: Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it.
Edward J. Loughrey, CFE, EA, LPA, can be reached at email@example.com or 843-705-7258.