Better Business Bureau warns that a new scam is fraudulently using the organization’s name in order to steal tens of thousands of dollars from victims who are led to believe they have won a lottery. So far, one victim has lost $80,000 to scammers posing as BBB employees. Several individuals have reported to BBB that they were contacted over the phone or via e-mail by someone claiming they were with the Better Business Bureau. They were told that they had won a lottery and that, in order to receive the prize, they must first wire money back to the scammers. In some cases, the scammers used the names of real BBB employees—directing victims to legitimate bios and profiles on BBB’s Web site—in order to bolster their ruse.
“Many people are struggling in the current economy and when someone tells you that you’ve won millions in a lottery, it can seem like an answer to prayer,” said Sheryl Bilbrey, President and CEO of the San Diego BBB. “Every year, tens of thousands of people contact BBB about a suspicious lottery and instead of cashing in, many lose thousands of dollars they don’t have.”
Better Business Bureau reminds consumers that the organization does not run a lottery nor award prizes to consumers. Anyone who receives a call, letter or e-mail about winning the lottery should consult the following checklist in order to avoid falling victim to a lottery scam:
Make sure the story checks out. Always confirm the facts directly with the organization the representative claims to be from—whether it’s Better Business Bureau or any other organization. Use contact information that you found on your own from the organization’s Web site; don’t rely on phone numbers or Web links provided by the representative. Scammers often pretend to be from legitimate businesses or non-profits and a quick call directly to the organization can help set the record straight.
Never pay money to get money. Lottery scammers make their money by convincing victims that they have to pay money up front—to cover such costs as taxes or fees—in order to receive their winnings. Because it is extremely difficult for the victim to track or retrieve money sent via wire transfer, scammers will often use this as their payment method of choice.
Don’t fall for the phony check. Scammers will often send a check in the mail to the victim with the instructions that—in order to receive the full prize—he or she must deposit the check and wire back a portion of the funds to cover fees or taxes. This gives the victim a false sense of security because the check will clear initially, but eventually be discovered as a fake. The money is then taken out of the victim’s account and he or she is out the funds sent to the scammer.
If you have been contacted by someone posing as a Better Business Bureau employee, contact the San Diego BBB at 858-496-2131 and report the incident.