Scam Alert: Sweepstakes, lottery scam calls strike Idahoans

Special to the Idaho StatesmanApril 17, 2014 

With her grandson in a hospital back east, Idaho Falls resident Carol Jones says she picked up the phone when she saw a call come in with a 202 prefix, thinking she was going to receive an update.

The caller said he was with Lloyd's of America and needed to discuss "her $350,000 winnings."

"The minute I heard him say I would need to get a $250 Green Dot card, I knew it was a scam caller," Jones said. She ended the call.

Sweepstakes/lottery scams use Lloyd's or other insurance companies' names to add credibility to the scam. The purpose of the scam is to steal the money sent for the supposed insurance premium.

Perpetrators of sweepstakes/lottery scams also might claim to be calling from actual or fictitious government departments or agencies. Calls from a pseudo-Publisher's Clearing House to a woman from Shelley, an American Sweepstakes call to Blackfoot, a Spain Lottery winner call to Caldwell, and a U.S. Consumer Protection Bureau prize have been reported to the Better Business Bureau.

Scammers pretend to be official prize coordinators. They might promise lottery winnings if you pay "taxes" or other fees, or they might threaten you with arrest or a lawsuit if you don't pay a supposed debt. Regardless of their tactics, their goal is the same: to get you to send them money.

Anyone taking a call should not send money or even talk to the caller. Lloyd's and/or other insurance companies would never contact any person directly asking for a premium to collect any alleged winnings.

You can't win a contest you did not enter: You need to buy a ticket or complete an application to participate in a contest or lottery. Be careful if you've been selected as a winner for a contest you never entered.

Verify - but not by using a source scammers gave you. Check whether an offer is real, but don't call the phone number in the email or website you suspect might be a scam. If it is a con, chances are the person on the other line will be involved, too.

Don't pay up to claim your prize: You should never have to pay money or buy products to receive a prize. Be especially wary of wiring money or using a prepaid debit card.

The only legal lotteries in the United States are the official state-run lotteries. Foreign lotteries are illegal.

If you get a call from a government impostor, file a complaint at ftc.gov/complaint, by calling the BBB at (208) 947-2115 or emailing me at rhicken@boise.bbb.org. Be sure to include:

• Date and time of the call.

• The name of any government agency the impostor cited.

• What they tell you, including the amount of money sought and the payment method.

• The phone number of the caller. Scammers might use technology to create a fake number or spoof a real one, but law enforcement agents still might be able to track that number to identify the caller.

FREE PAPER SHREDDING

A quick reminder: BBB's Secure Your ID Day - where we offer free paper shredding - is Saturday, April 26, from 10 a.m. to noon at the Idaho Transportation Department, 3311 W. State St., Boise.

Robb Hicken: 947-2115

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