Robocall Asking for Money to Claim a Prize? It’s a Scam

Christina Tetreault
Staff Attorney

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015
bags of money

“You’re a winner!” No, not really, if it’s a sweepstakes scam.

You already know that wily scammers will do anything to separate you from your money, but did you know that sometimes scammers contact you claiming that you’ve won a prize? Don’t fall for it. It’s just a scammer trying to woo you into sending money if they ask you to send money to claim your “prize.”

Mark from Norwich, Connecticut, shared this story with us:

Telephone call telling me I had won a million dollar sweepstakes and they were calling on behalf of this organization that had been trying to reach me on the phone. The taxes had been paid to the government so I may only get around $800,000 dollars. First their fee had to be paid by me to this agent before I got my big check. This fee was about $350. I guess my questions scared him off. A e-mail was to sent to me plus a phone call next morn. Never happened. I’m still not rich. 

Mark is not alone in getting these calls. Here’s what you need to know about how they work:

  • The caller will tell you that you’ve won a prize*; then
  • The scammer will tell you that in order to claim the prize, you have to send money to cover a fee or fees.

(*If you protest that you haven’t entered any contests lately, the scammer will try to convince you that you did and just don’t remember.)

Here’s what you need to know to avoid falling victim to sweepstakes scams:

Don’t send money

Legitimate sweepstakes won’t ask for money to claim your award. So, watch out for “taxes,” “shipping and handling charges,” or “processing fees” to get your prize.

Never wire money, or buy a prepaid card, or otherwise send cash to strangers. Wiring money is like sending cash: once it’s gone, it’s gone. That’s also true for putting money on a prepaid debit card and sharing that number with someone. Don’t do it!

Remember: real winners do not have to pay for prizes!

Watch out for imposters

Callers may say that they are from the Federal Lottery (there’s no such thing) or they may pretend to be with a legit company that really does do sweepstakes (like Publishers Clearing House). Don’t take a caller at his word. Look for signs of a scam, and contact the real agency or company yourself (not at a number they provide) to find out the truth.

Don’t share your account information

Never, ever give someone your account number (checking, debit, credit or prepaid) in response to any call – sweepstakes or otherwise – that you did not initiate and have not verified is legit.

Stop them before they get to you

Even savvy consumers fall victim to scams. That’s why we want you to have tools to stop them before they reach you. Join us in calling on the phone companies to provide free tools to block robocalls.


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