You Won! …Or, Did You?: Sweepstakes Fraud and Other Scams

Scams come in all shapes and sizes. Whether it’s by mail, over the phone, on the computer, or even face-to-face, the goal of would-be scammers is always the same: to get your money or your personal information. If your information falls into the wrong hands, it can be used to access your existing accounts and credit cards, or to open new ones. These actions can affect your credit history for years to come, and can have other long-lasting and undesirable consequences as well.

Here are a few common scams:

Lotteries: You receive a notice stating that you’ve won a lottery or prize drawing. Now all you have to do is send a payment to cover the taxes, processing, or handling fees. Sometimes these scams even provide you with a check to deposit, to cover the fees. The problem is, your bank will probably deposit the check initially, and you won’t find out it’s bad until the check is declined a few days later.

Tips: Watch out for upfront payment requests and notifications that come from foreign countries. If you didn’t enter a contest or buy a ticket, the odds are pretty good that this prize offer is not legitimate.

Scams targeting Senior Citizens: A number of scams are directed at seniors. Some of these include counterfeit prescription drugs, medical equipment fraud, health care/insurance fraud, and funeral/cemetery fraud.

Tips: Don’t sign blank forms. Only provide personal and insurance information to parties who have actually provided you with medical services, and if you have any doubts about equipment or prescriptions, be sure to consult with your doctor. Trusted family members and friends can also provide an extra set of eyes to look over any offers.

Telemarking Fraud: There are numerous scams that offer to sell services, products, or even investment opportunities. Some individuals call people up and pretend to be debt collectors. Highly publicized natural disasters bring out scammers pretending to be charities, soliciting donations for victims.

Tips: Watch out for anyone who tries to pressure you to act immediately or tells you to pay now or risk losing the opportunity. Don’t be afraid to ask the caller to provide their contact information or something in writing. Legitimate operations should have no problem with this. Do not provide personal information or send any money until you have verified that the other party is legitimate.

If you receive an offer that sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Before providing any money or personal information to anyone, be sure to contact an attorney at Wagner, Falconer & Judd, Ltd. We will be happy to review the offer and discuss it with you.

Attorney Nathan B. Serr