An older couple from West Liberty is out tens of thousands of dollars after falling prey to a telephone sweepstakes scam.
The Logan County husband and wife, who wish to remain anonymous, paid a total of $48,000 to a company that goes by the name Consumer Protection Bureau, which offered in return a cash prize of $600,000, according to a release from the Better Business Bureau Serving Dayton and the Miami Valley.
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The couple has not received any winnings. They had planned to use the money to pay for medical bills associated with the woman's illness, according to the release.
“Whether you receive an e-mail, phone call or letter from someone claiming you’ve won a prize, be skeptical," John North, BBB Dayton/Miami Valley president and CEO said in a prepared statement. "Don’t let the inclusion of a check to cover fees lead you to believe the notification is on the up and up."
Consumer Protection Bureau is not the same as similarly worded governmental agencies, such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which oversees banks and financial institutions, or the Bureau of Consumer Protection, an agency operating under the Federal Trade Commission that investigates and takes action against companies that violate the law.
According to the BBB, Consumer Protection Bureau, a "Holiday Sweepstakes" company, has an "F" rating for failing to respond to complaints and because of the BBB's concerns with the industry in which the company operates.
In the first half of this year, the BBB has received nearly 2,000 reports of scams related to sweepstakes, lotteries and prizes. The BBB reports those were the third most reported types of scams in 2016.
If you suspect you are being scammed, the BBB asks that you call to report it at (937) 222-5825 or (800) 776-5301. You can also report scams on the BBB's website.
The BBB offers tips to help people protect themselves from getting scammed.
- A notification you’ve won a prize in a contest you don’t remember entering should be a red flag.
- Real sweepstakes will not notify you via text or bulk mail. They won’t send an unexpected check in the mail nor will they impose a time limit of 24 hours to respond to collect your prize.
- Don’t send money by wire or green dot card, which makes it impossible to track and stop the transaction.
- You never have to pay upfront to claim a free prize. No legitimate sweepstakes company will ever ask you to pay a fee or buy something to enter or improve your chances of winning, including for such things as taxes, shipping and handling charges or processing fees.
- A check can bounce even after your bank allows you to withdraw cash from the deposit. The check could be detected as a fake weeks later, and you'll be on the hook for any funds drawn against the amount.