Saturday, July 16. 2011
Oh wow, looky here! I just won 800,000 pounds in the UK National Lottery!
Wait a second. I think there might be a problem here. As I recall, "UK" is an acronym for United Kingdom. I don't know off the top of my head what countries make up the United Kingdom, but Wikipedia ought to know.
In the latest version of Yahoo Mail, you have to hover over the sender's name on an email message to see their email address. This appears to be the sender of this email:
I'm thinking someone who works for a UK national lottery ought to have an email address from either the UK, England, Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales. However, this email address ends in ".cn". I am not sure what country that is, but it doesn't seem to be an abbreviation for any of the countries I'm expecting. Again, my best friend Wikipedia ought to know what country corresponds to ".cn".
End of lesson.
One final word. Wikipedia has another really good page that can be useful in spam detection:
It will tell you what the suffix means on any strange email address that you might ever see.
Happy spam hunting!!
Saturday, September 13. 2008
If you think you've been defrauded in a sweepstakes scam, please contact your local police station. The operator of this web site is a frumpy, middle-age, cat-loving, sweeps-entering woman who is currently employed as a computer programmer. I have no position in the law-enforcement community. While I can sympathize with your loss, I can't actually help you recover anything.
If the scam that ensnared you involved the U.S. Postal Service, you should get them involved as well. In a good number of the cases of sweepstakes fraud I've read, the postal service is often far more effective at catching and punishing contest frauders.
Saturday, July 19. 2008
I don't think this is actual sweepstakes fraud, but it makes for interesting reading.
If you don't want to click through and see how the story ends, I'll give you the condensed version. While the students technically weren't violating the rules, their actions seemed unfair to other contestants in the Southern California area, and McDonald's ending up holding a separate drawing that excluded all the entries from CalTech students.
I have a feeling this is why many sweepstakes official rules now contain the wording, "Limit one entry per day".
Thursday, June 26. 2008
Brighter Minds Media has a good online article on how to spot online sweepstakes that could be scams. They have four bullet points, one being:
Be sure to click through and read the other three. I can't reproduce them all here, otherwise that could be considered stealing.
If I had wrote the article, there's one more point I would have added. When you find an online sweepstakes, be sure to browse the rest of the company's web site, and determine what product or service the company is selling. If it's not clear how this web site makes money, take a second thought about giving them your email address. No one gives away prizes for free out of the goodness of their heart. If you can't figure out how the company generates income to pay for your prize and their web hosting bill, chances are good they make money by spamming you, or selling your email address to other spammers.
Wednesday, June 25. 2008
The FTC is now warning that scammers are impersonating government officials when calling about fake sweepstakes wins.
In a new spin on the age-old sweepstakes scam, crooks are getting bolder, using names of government agencies and legitimate phone numbers that mask where they’re calling from. Claiming to represent “the national consumer protection agency,” the non-existent National Sweepstakes Bureau, and even the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), they say that the delivery of the sweepstakes prize is being supervised by the supposed government agency. And they’re using Internet technology to make it appear that they’re calling from Washington, DC, the nation’s capital, or the consumer’s own area code.
Two things you should take away from this:
Thursday, June 5. 2008
Woo hoo! Go Yahoo! Go Yahoo!
I hope they succeed. Their first step will be to determine who is behind the spam so they know who exactly they are suing. I am sure the perpetrator will have no money worth collecting. At least the threat of a lawsuit ought to stop some people from continuing the phishing scams.
Saturday, April 12. 2008
What someone coming to this site would never know, judging from this blog's placid, cool outer appearance, is the amount of spam it gets daily. I am now getting roughly 70 spam comments a day. There are technical things I could implement that would put a stop to it. But, I am highly entertained by it. Right now, the spam is largely for prescription drugs. I am waiting with extreme anticipation for the day I receive comment spam for a fraudulent contest or sweepstakes. It will make my job of finding things to post on so much easier.
So, spammers, you want to post about your ambien, soma, percocet, and other drugs that I have no clue what they do? (OK, I lie, I at least know a person or two who's taken ambien.) Go for it! Knock yourself out!
For the rest of you, who are actually reading this post, feel free to ignore this and go on to the next article. I can promise you, there's really nothing worth reading in the comments to this post.
Friday, April 4. 2008
The NBC affiliate in Wichita, Kansas reports on a man who didn't win a Wal-Mart sponsored sweepstakes:
Hooray for Raj. I'm sure he wishes he thought of that while still on the call.
My personal opinion is that his call was from a telemarketer giving a deceptive sales pitch. The company likely sells some entirely different product, and the person who called him was probably behind on quota and needed a sure-fire way to make sure his next phone call resulted in a sale. Lying is not always discouraged in the telemarketing industry.
But, as the title says, this could have been a lot worse. Raj could have found his entire bank balance drained away. Instead, only one charge for a totally different amount was made to his debit card. This is why I think it wasn't a true scammer, but a person desperate to make a sale.
If you ever receive a phone call like this, please be aware that no legitimate sweepstakes administrator would make you pay shipping and handling on a prize win. That just doesn't happen. Raj's own red flag applies as well. Only a handful of the stores I visit ask for my phone number, and Wal-Mart isn't one of them.
Saturday, March 29. 2008
I haven't posted in some time, but figured I should today, when I read this article, and realized it's right up this blog's alley.
From the Bendix website:
Isn't that just incredibly rude of these scammers, to now add identity theft into the mix?
Remember, if you ever are notified of a sweepstakes win for a sweepstakes you never remember entering, it's likely a fraud. I am fairly confident this company has never held a sweepstakes, given what it does for a living.
Monday, January 28. 2008
I admit that I have been living under a rock, and didn't hear about this story until just last night. As the BBC puts it,
An essay that won a six-year-old girl tickets to a Hannah Montana concert has been exposed as a fake.
Later in the article, we learn that the sponsor disqualified her entry and awarded the prize to another entrant.
Here's the thing about essay contests. Not many people enter them. There's many reasons why, but I think these are the top three:
You really ought to enter essay contests when you see them. You actually do stand a good chance of winning. I've heard of essay contests where only about a dozen entries were submitted! You don't have to be a professional writer to enter, either. If these sponsoring companies wanted a professionally-written essay, they'd hire a professional to do it. They actually want essays that sound like an average American wrote it. The winning submission is usually used in magazines, radio commercials, web sites, and in other promotional materials, and your essay shows that real people use their product.
I don't think the woman in this news story really understood point #3. Contest winners, especially in high-profile giveaways like this Hannah Montana one, are sometimes featured in news stories as a way for the sponsoring company to gain a little publicity. They aren't giving away this stuff for nothing. Hannah Montana tickets definitely aren't free! I had my picture taken and published in the local newspaper when I won a year of free housekeeping services back in the late 90's. You, too, should expect to have your name and possibly your picture publicized when you win a high-profile prize. And with that publicity can come interviews.
Therefore, you should enter essay contests fully expecting them to be read aloud on the Today show. (It happened to this woman.) Don't lie, don't reveal any embarrassing tidbits about your friends or loved ones, and don't do anything else you wouldn't want to have associated with your name. Remember, the Internet is forever. When I google my name, I can still find essay contest entries I submitted in web-based contests going back to 2001! Fortunately, if I ever apply for a new job, there's nothing in those entries that I think a Human Resources employee might find and want to disqualify me from hiring. I hope such a thing never happens to the mother in this story.
I end this post with a challenge to all the news organizations that have published articles on this story. All of them mention the mother's name. A few of them also mention the 6-year-old daughter's name. As I just pointed out, the Internet is forever. Would you consider removing the name of the daughter from your articles? Usually minors are not mentioned by name in stories like these. We wouldn't want the actions of her mother to haunt her as she grows up.
Saturday, December 8. 2007
I haven't posted in a while, but unfortunately that doesn't mean all contest fraud has now ceased.
An article dated December 5th, 2007 in the Ludington Daily News in Michigan states:
A Pentwater woman was not fooled by the phony sweepstakes announcement she received recently, and Police Chief Mike Schuitema used his cell phone to track the scam back to China.
The article proceeds to explain that all the usual elements were at play in this fraud:
Not only are these scammers just disgusting, they are also unimaginative. It's always the same thing. Fortunately, it makes this scam easier to spot.
Friday, October 19. 2007
This story is just jaw-dropping:
A 76-year-old Gardena woman sent more than $400,000 to con artists who told her she had won an Australian Sweepstakes, police said Thursday.The full story is at the Daily Breeze, along with details about another non-sweepstakes-related scam taking place in the same city.
I can repeat this over and over on the Internet: "Don't pay taxes up front on your prizes." "Don't pay taxes up front on your prizes". However, if you aren't online, and I suspect this 76-year-old woman is not, you can't hear me. So here's the moral of this story:
Please tell your parents and grandparents: "Don't pay taxes up front on your prizes".
It is always a scam when someone informs you of a lottery, sweepstakes, or contest win, and requires you to pay taxes up front. It just doesn't work that way. I have won enough sweepstakes myself to tell you this from experience. Taxes are paid AFTER you collect your winnings. If more people knew this, they wouldn't fall prey to this scam.
Wednesday, October 17. 2007
My least-favorite scam to hear about is in the news again. This time, it's featured in the Maryland Gazette:
Sherry Brown was trying to do the right thing. While her son, Army Sgt. Deon Brown, was serving in Iraq, she was managing his bank accounts at home. And when the letter came telling her son had won thousands of dollars, she was happy for him.
And here's the scariest part of the article:
It sounded too good to be true, even to Ms. Brown, at the time. She took the check to a couple banks and when they all said it looked legitimate, she deposited it.
This all transpired about two years ago. I am hoping that by now, this bank, and other banks around the country, are aware of this scam, and would not make this call today.
This article has also done some of my homework for me, and lists the red flags right in the article itself:
But upon further inspection, the letter was clearly a fraud. It instructed her not to tell anyone about the winnings and to hurry through the process. "Those should be the red flags," Ms. Brown said.
This mother felt so bad about losing her son's money that she personally repaid his account to make it whole. To those of you out there taking care of a loved one's financial state, please don't repeat her same mistake. And, to those of you out there who pull these kind of scams, don't you feel bad at all about this?
Friday, October 5. 2007
The advertising blitz for McDonald's 2007 edition of their popular Monopoly promotion is in full swing, and I'd like to take this opportunity to warn you about a fast-food sweepstakes scam that I've heard has happened to several people in the past year or so.
If you were to visit the McDonald's 2007 Monopoly online official rules page, you probably won't notice this sentence buried near the middle of the page:
PARTICIPANTS SHOULD NOT SHOW OR GIVE ANY OTHER POTENTIAL INSTANT WIN GAME STAMP OR ANY POTENTIAL WINNING COMBINATION TO ANY MCDONALD'S, TOYS"R"US OR FOOT LOCKER EMPLOYEE.
This is one of the only sentences on the page written in all-caps. They are shouting at you and I hope you hear them loud and clear.
Should you find yourself in possession of a winning food game piece, you should redeem it at your local McDonald's. However, if you think you've won an actual game prize, either by collecting a series of board properties of the same color, or by an instant-win single stamp piece, do NOT bring it to the counter staff. You'll probably be excited to realize you've won, but the best thing to do would be to secure the game piece or pieces somewhere in your purse or wallet, and head for home.
Because the counter crew at your local McDonald's is responsible for redeeming the food prizes, they have been trained to know what those winning game pieces look like. As a side effect, they also will have a good idea as to what the winning game pieces for high-value prizes will look like. If you think your game piece says you've won $25,000 cash, and ask an employee for confirmation, they likely will know for sure if you've won or not. However, in fast-food game piece promotions like this in the past, some employees have taken this opportunity to scam the winners.
I've had two people tell me almost the same story in the past year, and these incidents didn't occur at McDonald's. It may be best if I don't tell you exactly where these happened, because I don't believe those restaurants were responsible for what happened -- the blame rests squarely on the employees. In one case, the woman handed her game piece to the counter staff, who then said he needed better light to read her game piece. He went to the back of the store (where the better light was?), then came back to tell her it wasn't a winner. When she asked for the game piece back, she was told he already threw it away because it was worthless. Some nastiness ensued, but she never did get her game piece back. She was pretty sure she won a prize worth about $50, and that the employee pocketed it.
In the other case, the counter staff confirmed the person I spoke to was a winner, and had her wait for someone to find a claim form. She was eventually given a form, she dutifully filled it out, then handed it back to the counter help along with the game piece. The employee stapled the game piece to the form, told her she'd forward it as necessary, and she'd get her prize in a few weeks. After a few months went by with no prize shipment, she contacted the restaurant. It turned out the employees were supposed to provide her with the claim form, and it was her responsibility to mail it back with the game piece via certified mail. We both agreed it was highly likely the employee unstapled her game piece after she left, and gave the game piece to a friend who was eligible to win prizes in the promotion. Normally, when a company holds promotions like these, employees and their immediate family are ineligible to win prizes. As I recall, this was a good prize too, worth approximately $250.
So please know this: If you win something in the McDonald's Monopoly game that's better than a food prize, please keep it as a secret to yourself until you get home from the store. At home, please visit the McDonald's 2007 Monopoly online official rules page again. Sections 9b and 9c say that these game piece prizes can be redeemed via text messaging, by calling a toll-free telephone number, or by visiting an official game redemption web site.
I hope this long essay of mine doesn't scare you away from playing the game. Good luck!
Wednesday, September 26. 2007
I just received a really exciting email in my inbox. It says, I'm a Yahoo Winner! A screenshot of the email is below. Please click to enlarge it. What's wrong with it?
I have intentionally erased some parts of the picture for privacy reasons, so if you want to say, "Some parts of the e-mail are missing", that's intentional on my part. Here's the list I came up with:
See any other red flags? Leave a comment if you see a telltale sign of a fake contest win notice that I'm not remembering to list here. And please keep these red flags in mind if you receive any email like this in your own mailbox.
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A short lesson in contest spam detection.
Saturday, July 16 2011
I'm not a cop.
Saturday, September 13 2008
Enter as often as you wish, times a million
Saturday, July 19 2008
Online red flags
Thursday, June 26 2008
I don't recall entering a federal sweepstakes.
Wednesday, June 25 2008
Yahoo Sues Lottery Spammers!
Thursday, June 5 2008
Post your spam here
Saturday, April 12 2008
This could have been a lot worse
Friday, April 4 2008
Sorry, there was no Bendix sweepstakes
Saturday, March 29 2008
Hannah Montana concert tix - Now you win, now you don't
Monday, January 28 2008