CHARLESTON — Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is warning consumers about a new version of an old sweepstakes scam that’s recently been circulating.
In this scam, a person will receive an unsolicited phone call telling them they’ve won a free Walt Disney World vacation, but to hold the reservation, they need to give the caller a bank account or credit card number.
Once the scammers has this information, they can empty the victim’s bank account or run up thousands of dollars in fraudulent charges on the card.
“It’s easy to get excited by the prospect of winning a free vacation,” Morrisey said in a press release. “However, by not paying attention to warning signs, that ‘free’ vacation may turn into something that costs thousands of dollars.”
As with other pay-for-play prize scams, scammers use the names of well-known or reputable vacation destinations such as Walt Disney World to make it seem as if you are winning a legitimate prize. Scammers often hope that the destination’s high recognition is high enough to cause the victim to participate in the scam.
“Free vacations do not come from unsolicited phone calls telling you that you’ve won a contest you didn’t enter,” Morrisey said. “You should never give these callers any personal information so you can ‘claim your winnings.’”
There are a few other tips you can use to spot vacation scams:
* Always be suspicious of unsolicited calls, mail pieces, or e-mails promising amazing deals on popular or exotic vacation destinations.
* If the caller says they are from a specific travel agency, get as much information as possible and research it online. Type the name of the company and “scam” into a search engine to see if there are any results, or check with the Office’s Consumer Protection Division or the Better Business Bureau.
* Do not feel pressured to accept the deal immediately. If this is a legitimate offer, the caller will have no problem sending you additional details about the trip by mail. If the caller resists, it’s likely a scam.
If you have received one of these phone calls, or think you have been the victim of a vacation scam, the AG's office urges you to call its Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-368-8808.