Sweepstakes warning: Beware phony letter

Sweepstakes warning: Beware phony letterThe Oregon Attorney General is warning consumers not to fall for a sweepstakes letter that claims recipients have won $1.4 million and need to pay a small fee to claim their award.

Oregon's Department of Justice has sent a letter to a New York company ordering it to stop mailing the fake notices to Oregon residents or face sanctions for violating Oregon's Unlawful Trade Practices Act.

The department's consumer hotline has received calls from people asking about the letter, which claims it's a "guaranteed sweepstakes award."

"It's just pure deception," Tony Green, a spokesman for the attorney general's office told Consumer Ally.

Earlier this year, law enforcement in Minnesota warned consumers there about a sweepstakes scam involving the company. Consumer agencies in other states have also received similar complaints.

The attorney general offers the following advice for consumers who receive a bogus sweepstakes or lottery offer, which is one of the most common scams:
  • Participating in a foreign lottery is illegal. Often these schemes are tied to organized crime.
  • Never pay-to-play in a sweepstakes.
  • Beware of fake organizations using similar names to more well-known groups in an attempt to trick consumers.
  • Government agencies do not sponsor sweepstakes.
  • Never wire money to receive a prize.
  • Beware of requests for income, credit card information or bank accounts as a condition of participating in a sweepstakes or lottery.
  • Don't participate in sweepstakes or respond to advertisements that resemble a check, bill or invoice.
Con artists frequently send victims fake checks as a "first down-payment" of their winnings, asking that a percentage be wired back, misrepresenting that it will be used to pay taxes associated with the winnings. The fake checks can sit in a checking account for a week before eventually bouncing.
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