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.
Thursday, September 20. 2007
It's always a joy to hear contest fraud stories that don't include a giant loss of money:
An 84-year-old resident of Bob Hope Village was instructed not to answer unknown numbers after a person who identified himself as a sweepstakes representative continuously called her.You can read the rest of the story at the Northwest Florida Daily News.
There's two things you should take away from this:
1) You do not have to pay any money at all to collect sweepstakes winnings. What is the likelihood that if someone else received this phone call, they would have thought to themselves: "$150 isn't much money for the chance that this could be for real, this may be a scam but I'll chance it because I could use $750K!". Remember, in some foreign countries, $150 in American dollars can go a long way, and it's worth it for the scammer to risk trouble with the authorities over what seems to be such a small amount. The proper amount of money to pay to collect genuine sweepstakes winnings is $0.00.
2) This woman must have caller ID as she was told not to answer the phone if she didn't recognize the number. This isn't always the best advice, as I've had to make emergency calls to family members before from borrowed cell phones. My phone calls would have been refused if I had given everyone I know this advice. However, if you feel your loved ones are at risked of being scammed in a telephone operation, you may want to pass along this little tidbit, if they do have a caller ID-enabled phone.
Thursday, September 13. 2007
CBS had a great story on sweepstakes fraud just the other day:
And then there are the so-called “Leads” brokers, a shadowy network of guys who come to life on wiretap – sounding like something out of The Sopranos – making their living selling lists of names and personal information pulled from bogus sweepstakes entries or lottery forms or bought from crooked employees inside, for example, credit reporting services. I showed up at the door of one such supplier down in Rock Hill, South Carolina, a real piece of work by the last name of Panas, only to have it slammed in my face. Panas hung up the phone when I told him I heard he was the man to see for lead lists built on phony sweepstakes. Maybe he’ll answer if the feds come calling.Well ain't that just great! If you thought you were safe from fraudulent sweepstakes pitches because you never sign up for any giveaways, it looks like you're still vulnerable, simply by having a credit history! So please do take their advice, even if you think you are immune. Remember, you never need to pay anything up front to collect a sweepstakes prize, regardless of what you're told it's for -- taxes, insurance, lawyer fees, whatever.
Tuesday, September 11. 2007
The USPS web site has a very catchy and very true slogan for their web page warning people about sweepstakes fraud:
Collecting your sweepstakes prize should cost you nothing... or could cost you plenty!
Here's an example of our tax dollars at work in a good way. They hired writers far better than myself to give you free advice that everyone should know. If you don't have an opportunity to check out this section of their web site, here's a good summary for you:
Postal Inspectors suggest you ask yourself these questions to prevent being scammed:
Saturday, September 8. 2007
I brought up the Do Not Call database the other day, and I suppose I ought to now tell you how to sign up.
If you have a cell phone or land line that you don't want telemarketers to call, go to this web site:
It may take up to a month for your registration to take effect. Once it does, telemarketers should not be calling your phone number for five years.
If you have any problems signing up online, you can also call the Do Not Call switchboard and register over the phone by calling 1-888-382-1222. You need to call from the phone number you want to register.
Wednesday, September 5. 2007
This is not sweepstakes fraud, to be precise, but is something you should be aware of. From the Triangle Business Journal:
Craftmatic of Maryland, a direct-to-consumer bed seller, will change tactics after the state attorney general's office accused it of tricking people into signing themselves off the federal Do Not Call registry.When the Do Not Call registry started several years back, I remember reading an article analyzing the legislation, which hopefully I will find someday and will be able to include on this blog. It showed that the way it was worded, once you estabished a business relationship with a company, that overrided your preference on the Do Not Call list, and allowed that company to phone you. It sounds reasonable, because once I purchase an item from someone, I would want them to call me to set up a delivery time, if it's large, or to call me if it's out of stock. However, one of the things that was considered "establishing a business relationship" was entering a sweepstakes sponsored by that company.
So please be aware that when you enter a sweepstakes, you are giving that sponsor the right to call you, even if you've registered with the Do Not Call database. And I'm sure if you did win that sweepstakes, you wouldn't mind them calling you to tell you "You're going to Hawaii!". However, I did wonder if companies would begin holding sweepstakes simply to gather phone numbers and be able to legitimately call them, as a loophole around the legislation. It appears they are.
The lesson here: If you really don't want surprise phone calls on a particular phone number, never use it on a sweepstakes entry form.
Tuesday, September 4. 2007
For those of you without teenagers in your life, TMI = Too Much Information!
Deborah Mosher, out in South Georgia, had her own scam story to relay to her local TV station, WALB.com:
When Deborah Mosher received a letter saying she won 250 thousand dollars, only one thought ran through her mind. "I said this isn't real. There's no way this is real. It's to good to be true."
And I hope a desire to obtain your banking information would raise a red flag with you as well. There is absolutely no reason for a legitimate sweepstakes to know your banking details. It's amazing, all the tiny little variations there are on this latest sweepstakes-check-in-the-mail scam, isn't there?
Monday, September 3. 2007
An article from last weekend's Kansas City Star makes an observation that I have been noticing myself in the last few days, that an increasing number of scams are coming from our neighbors to the north:
But investigators say Blevins [whose story is recounted in the article] is no more a fool than the thousands of other senior citizens targeted by brazen telemarketing scams originating outside the United States, increasingly from Canada.It's a 4-page article so I doubt many people will make it to the end. That's why I want to point out a resource mentioned near the end of the story, as it may be missed by people who could benefit by it. Apparently there is a Canadian organization called PhoneBusters which handles complaints about telemarketing lottery and sweepstakes fraud, and they will accept reports from Americans as well. If someone in Canada has called claiming you've won a sweepstakes or lottery prize, and you're being asked for money, be sure to contact them. Here's their web site and phone number:
PhoneBusters -- http://www.phonebusters.com/english/index.html -- 888-495-8501
Saturday, September 1. 2007
The following warning comes from the state of Maine's web site:
Having received additional questions from consumers, the Bureau of Insurance is once again advising to beware of illegal sweepstakes scams targeting people in this State and across the country. “We have reports from individuals who have recently received bogus sweepstakes letters and checks using the logo and name of insurance companies without the company’s knowledge or authorization. We want to make sure individuals are aware that these sweepstakes and checks are not authentic.”
If you live in Maine and have received a letter like this, click here for the Maine Bureau of Insurance's phone number, as they'd like to hear from you.
What is the UK Lottery Organization?
Monday, September 12 2016
A very "generous" win
Tuesday, April 5 2016
The UK Lottery Program?
Wednesday, March 23 2016
So many Powerball winners!
Friday, March 11 2016
I did what?
Thursday, March 3 2016
Yes this is spam - the UN doesn't award prizes!
Tuesday, March 1 2016
It's either spam or Walter White's rich uncle
Tuesday, March 1 2016
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