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Beware of sweepstakes scammer

scamalert 600The caller says you've won $500,000. Too good to be true? In this case, yes, says the Better Business Bureau.

BBB is warning Mid-Southerners to be wary of calls from the Consumer Protection Bureau (CPB) claiming that they have won money. CPB's website, uscpb.com, claims that they were recently founded to monitor and direct financial matters in our nation.

"The name is just similar enough to that of an actual federal agency to be misleading to consumers," said Randy Hutchinson, president and CEO of BBB of the Mid-South.

"The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is a legitimate federal agency established in 2010 to supervise banks, credit unions and other financial companies and enforce federal consumer financial laws." Hutchinson added.

A Memphis man contacted BBB after his mother told him about the call she got claiming that she had won $500,000.

"She does like to enter sweepstakes, but this just sounded fishy," he told BBB. "The more I looked into it, the more it sounded like a scam."

He tried calling the number on the website but got no answer. He Googled both addresses listed on the website and found that one was the address of the Council of Better Business Bureaus in Arlington, Va.

The caller had assured the potential victim that this was not a scam and gave her the website address to check out. He also assured her that he did not want any of her banking information or for her to remit any payment to them, a common tactic of sweepstakes scams.

BBB staff also called the number on the website, pretending to have received a call. Here's the account of what happened next"

"After giving the representative a fictitious name, we were told that we were the 2nd place winner in the Holiday Sweepstakes out of Las Vegas, Nev. To claim our winnings of $525,000, we simply had to send $5,250 to pay for the delivery insurance from the sweepstakes location to our home. When we asked how to send the money, we were put on hold again, but the representative never came back on the line."

BBB tips regarding sweepstakes and lotteries:

· There is no legitimate reason for someone sending you money to ask you to send them money first. You should never have to pay any money or buy any products to receive a prize.

· Never wire money to claim a prize. Once sent, it's extremely hard to trace and even harder to recover.

· Never provide prepaid card numbers or information to someone you don't know. Scammers are turning to prepaid cards more and more these days as their chosen payment method, since they don't have to show up anywhere to claim the funds. Anyone with that number can drain the funds from the card electronically.

· Never provide personal or financial information over the phone.

· Remember that you must enter to win. If you didn't purchase a lottery ticket or enter the sweepstakes, you probably aren't the lucky winner.

· The only legal lotteries in the United States are the official state-run lotteries. Foreign lotteries are illegal.

For more consumer tips and advice on the latest scams, visit bbb.org, check out Facebook (BBBMemphis), or Follow on Twitter (@BBBMidSouth).

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