CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey's office is warning consumers to be on guard when notified of winning a sweepstakes, especially those associated with the name of a legitimate company or government agency.
Sweepstakes and lottery scams frequently target West Virginia consumers. Just this month, one resident lost $1,000 after being told to pay money to receive a prize, while the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau warned of a caller impersonating its agency, despite the CFPB’s lacking involvement with lottery and sweepstakes winnings.
“Most people would love the surprise of finding they suddenly have extra money to pocket, especially money in large sums” Morrisey said. “Scammers will seize upon that excitement to steal your money or personal information. It’s important to verify the legitimacy of the sweepstakes and know the fine print before claiming the money in order to avoid any pitfalls.”
Targeted consumers are told they have won a lottery or sweepstakes, but that they must pay the taxes or fees upfront in order to collect the prize. Those who send money lose it, as the impostor disappears and the winnings never arrive.
While there are contests that do award prizes, consumers must carefully verify the legitimacy of any win.
For instance, Publishers Clearing House, state lotteries and government agencies never require winners to pay money to receive their prize. That means potential winners should never agree to send cash, wire money or provide numbers associated with a credit/debit card or bank account.
Furthermore, Publishers Clearing House does not notify winners by phone, but instead by in-person visit or certified mail.
Winning a sweepstakes the consumer didn’t enter, being asked to pay upfront fees or taxes and being pressured to act immediately should all be red flags.
Consumers with questions or think they may have been scammed can contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-368-8808, the Eastern Panhandle Consumer Protection Office in Martinsburg at 304-267-0239 or visit the office online at www.wvago.gov.