State warns of Powerball phone scam

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Gazette staff
Wednesday, March 26, 2014

MADISON—A phony promise of an unclaimed lottery winning is the latest phone scam targeting Wisconsin consumers.

The scam starts with callers telling consumers they are eligible for unclaimed Powerball prizes and asking them to pick some numbers. Later, the callers contact the consumers again claiming they won a third or fourth prize for millions of dollars and an automobile.

The state Department of Trade and Consumer Protection says a phony promise of prize winnings is a common scam. What sets these calls apart from traditional scams, however, is that these scammers are not asking for money to cover taxes or fees on the fictional prizes or for personally identifying information like Social Security numbers.

Rather, they seem to be casing the consumers for future scams, asking them general financial questions about their investments and the values of their homes, the department said in a news release.

The Wisconsin Department of Revenue, which runs the state's lottery, is aware of the calls and said the only time anyone would receive a call from the lottery is if they entered and won a mail-in drawing.

Because these Powerball calls have not included the usual scam red flags of requests for money, sensitive personal data or bank or credit account numbers, the department said it has been a challenge for staff to persuade consumers that the calls are fraudulent.

Even if the caller does not ask for personally identifying information in the initial contacts, they are still gathering data that allows them to build a profile on the consumer that they can use for future scams, the department said.

If a consumer freely and eagerly answers the scammer's questions, that scammer now has two important pieces of information: the overall wealth of the consumer and a sense that the consumer will be an easy and receptive target for future scams.

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