If somebody calls you and says anything like, "Hi, I'm from the Federal Trade Commission and I'm calling to tell you that you have won $250,000...," watch out, because they are not and you have not.
Scammers falsely claiming to work for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) might call you with the "good news" that you have won a big lottery or sweepstakes. All you have to do get your prize, they'll tell you, is pay the taxes and insurance, which you can do by sending them from $1,000 to $10,000. Of course, there is no prize, but according to the FTC a growing number of consumers are falling victim to this scam.
"The FTC is the nation's consumer protection agency. It investigates fraud and provides free information, but it never collects money directly from consumers," stated the FTC in a press release. "FTC employees don't have any involvement with this sweepstakes scam, and they want you to avoid it."
What to Watch For: In an attempt to convince their victims, the scammers will often claim that the FTC is "supervising" the distribution of money from the giveaway. They might use name of an actual FTC employee. They can even make Caller ID features display the Federal Trade Commission's name or a Washington, DC area code. The scammers will also make repeated calls and send follow-up faxes.
What to Do: Obviously, don't send the caller any money or personal financial information. Instead, immediately report the call to the real FTC at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov or or call 1-877-FTC-HELP.
"No matter how convincing the impersonation, never send money to claim a prize," warns the FTC. "No FTC employee will ever call to ask you to send money. Legitimate sweepstakes companies won't either."
In addition, notes the FTC, legitimate sweepstakes or lotteries never require winners to pay "insurance," "taxes," or "shipping and handling charges" to collect their prizes.