CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is warning residents about a scam that’s been circulating in some counties in which a resident will receive a piece of mail notifying them of a cash or prize award, but asking the recipient for a cash advance to collect it.

A Wirt County resident recently reported to the Attorney General’s Office that she received a notice in the mail of a cash award of $4,000. To get the award, however, she would need to advance half of that prize for a “handler’s fee.” The notice came from “Advance Trust Finance Services."

“Luckily this resident had a pretty good feeling that this was a scam and reported it to us right away,” Morrisey said. “It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of believing you’ve won a prize, but it’s important to not let that excitement cloud your judgment and prevent you from fully evaluating whether it’s legitimate.”

The AG's office says it usually is easy to spot this common scam, but sometimes, scammers will use the name of an established sweepstakes to lull consumers into a false sense of security.

In those cases, the scammers are counting on the consumer to simply follow through with the “requirements” of the prize without reading any fine print about the prize’s potential terms or conditions.

“Quite simply, it’s illegal for any company to make you pay a fee to claim a prize,” Morrisey said. “No legitimate sweepstakes will ever require this, or will ever require you to provide them with any personal information or financial information ahead of time to claim your winnings.”

If residents have received mail from “Advance Trust Finance Services,” or any other similar organization asking for a fee in exchange for a prize, the AG's office asks them to call its Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-368-8808.

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