Sweepstakes winnings are scams

Print Print
Kayla Bunge
Thursday, August 19, 2010
— August Hohl knew he had not won $12 million.

He figured the letter he got was a scam, and he was not going to sign or pay anything to find out for sure.

Hohl of Janesville this week received a letter from the Sweepstakes Audit Bureau.

He was not congratulated for being a randomly selected winner of a drawing. He was not asked to deposit a check or wire money back to claim his prize. He simply was asked to sign a form, send $5 to process his claim and respond by the end of the month.

The letter looks legitimate. It includes what looks like a real address for the bureau and what looks like an official logo of the bureau.

But the claim form is very simplistic. It includes only a place for a signature.

Hohl called Janesville police to report it, and they referred him to the postal inspector. He went to the post office, and staff told him they could forward the letter to the inspector.

He turned to the newspaper for quicker action.

Hohl thinks law enforcement and other officials should take scams more seriously than they do.

“It’s a small scam individually, but when you consider the number of potential winners for national sweepstakes like this … if even 10 percent of the people send in their five bucks, these people have made millions,” he said. “It’s a crime …”

The state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection has received one or two complaints about fake sweepstakes drawings every year for the last few years, said Janet Jenkins, administrator of the division of trade and consumer protection.

“I don’t think we’ve seen much of this one, although these types of scams recycle over the course of time,” she said.

Consumers should look for some basic things to determine if they really have won a drawing or if they are being ripped off.

-- Certified or registered mail: Places that are handing out legitimate prizes likely would send notification via certified or registered mail, Jenkins said.

-- Involved claim process: People who’ve won real prizes usually have to go through more than signing a short form and mailing a nominal fee, she said.

-- Contact information: Places that hold drawings usually have a phone number and encourage winners to contact them with questions, Jenkins said.

“If it seems too simple and easy and too good to be true, then it probably is,” she said.

Lottery and sweepstakes scams were among the top 10 scams of last year, and such scams have persisted in the area.

In another scam incident, John Wilson of Janesville a couple weeks ago received a letter from Reader’s Digest congratulating him for being randomly selected to win a grand prize of $145,000. He also received a check for $4,975.44.

The letter, printed on letterhead that includes the logo of the well-known magazine, instructed Wilson to call a customer care representative for more information to process his claim.

The check, drawn off the account of Bristol West Insurance Group, was to assist Wilson with the insurance on his prize.

Last updated: 2:41 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

Print Print