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Sweepstakes scam targets local resident

Never has there been a truer adage than “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Fortunately, for one local resident, he remembered those words after receiving a letter notifying him he had won second prize in the 'USA Departmental Stores Sweepstake (sic) Lottery” held on July 12, 2017.

That prize of $500,000 would be his after he paid processing fees as a requirement to release the balance of his winnings. A counterfeit check payable to the resident in the amount of $4,600 was included with the letter.

The resident, who did not want his identity released for this article, was directed to pay a “tax amount of $3,480” in order to collect his winnings and not to act on the notice or cash the check until he contacted claims agent Charles Brown or Anita Edwards at a phone number in Toronto, Canada.

The Franklin Free Press contacted the number and spoke with an individual who identified himself as Charles Brown. Brown directed the reporter to deposit the check he received and not show the letter to his bank. Upon depositing the check, the reporter was told to call back and make arrangements to pay the processing fee and taxes on his winnings.

The reporter was told he was entered into the sweepstakes by shopping at Walmart, Walgreens or Rite-Aid last year.

The letterhead on the winning notice came from Providence Capital Financial Services. An Internet search of this company found numerous complaints of scam lottery notices across the country. According to www.ripoffreport.com, victims were notified by Providence that they had won the lottery and directed to deposit the check then contact the company to pay an administrative fee. That process entails giving the scam artists personal information about the victim, including bank account information and Social Security number.

Lottery scams work because the scammer dangles the attractive carrot of a large cash prize and all the victim has to do is pay a fee, often said to cover insurance costs, government taxes, bank fees or courier charges. According to www.scamwatch.gov, the scammers make money by continually collecting these fees and stalling the payment of the victim's winnings.

Additionally, the scammers direct the victim to keep his or her winnings private and confidential in order to 'maintain security.' The truth is scammers don't want victims checking out the company and seeking further information from independent sources.

As with any telephone or written solicitation, never give out any personal identification or details about bank accounts, as this information can be used for identity theft.

Although the local resident's check looked genuine, it's counterfeit and eventually will bounce. By that time, if the scammer is successful, they'll have your personal information and be well into major identity theft that can include opening accounts in your name, buying things on credit cards in your name, taking out loans in your name and/or committing crimes in your name.

According to the website www.consumerfraudreporting.org, legitimate lotteries and sweepstakes never ask for money at any time. Taxes are never paid through anyone else or by anyone else. Taxes in legitimate lotteries are paid by the winner directly to the government. There are no other fees on genuine lottery winnings and any documents they send you are counterfeit or forged.

Lottery money isn't stored at a 'security house,' is not shipped in cash and is never sent by courier.

If in doubt, remember, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

 

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