Scammers Exploit the FTC’s Good Name, Promise Phony Sweepstakes Prizes

Scammers Exploit the FTC’s Good Name, Promise Phony Sweepstakes Prizes

“Hi, I’m calling from the Federal Trade Commission to tell you that you have won $250,000…”

Someone who claims to work for the Federal Trade Commission calls to inform you that you have won a lottery or sweepstakes. To receive the prize, all you have to do is pay the taxes and insurance. The caller asks you to wire money or send a check for an amount between $1,000 and $10,000. What should you do? Don’t send money or account information, and immediately report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov.

The FTC is the nation’s consumer protection agency. It investigates fraud and provides free information, but it never collects money directly from consumers. FTC staffers don’t have any involvement with this sweepstakes scam, and they want you to avoid it.

The caller might suggest that the FTC is supervising the giveaway. He or she might even use the name of a bonafide FTC employee. Your Caller ID might display the Federal Trade Commission’s name or a Washington, DC area code. Don’t be surprised if you receive repeated calls and follow-up faxes.

No matter how convincing the impersonation, never send money to claim a prize. No FTC employee will ever call to ask you to send money. Legitimate sweepstakes companies won’t either. Nevertheless, many consumers and their families have sent money and lost it before recognizing this as a scam and reporting it.

Taking a few precautions can help you minimize your risk of falling for the lure of sweepstakes scams:

  • Don’t pay to collect sweepstakes winnings. If you have to pay to collect your winnings, you haven’t won. Legitimate sweepstakes don’t require you to pay “insurance,” “taxes,” or “shipping and handling charges” to collect your prize.
  • Hold on to your money. Scammers pressure people to wire money through commercial money transfer companies like Western Union because wiring money is the same as sending cash. If you discover you’ve been scammed, the money’s gone, and there’s very little chance of recovery. Don’t send a check or money order by overnight delivery or courier, either. Con artists recommend these services so they can get your money before you realize you’ve been cheated.
  • Look-alikes aren’t the real thing. It’s illegal for any promoter to lie about an affiliation with — or an endorsement by — a government agency or any other well-known organization. Disreputable companies sometimes use a variation of an official or nationally recognized name to try to confuse you and give you confidence in their offers. Insurance companies, including Lloyd’s of London, do not insure delivery of sweepstakes winnings.
  • Phone numbers can deceive. Some con artists call using Internet technology that allows them to disguise their area code: although it may look like they’re calling from Washington, DC, or your local area, they could be calling from anywhere in the world.
  • File a complaint with the FTC. If you receive a call from someone who claims to be a representative of the government trying to arrange for you to collect supposed sweepstakes winnings, file a complaint at ftc.gov or call 1-877-FTC-HELP. Your complaint will be most useful to enforcement officials if you include the date and time of the call, the name or phone number of the organization that called you, the FTC employee name that was used, the prize amount, the amount of money requested, the payment method, and any other details.

Credit Repair: How to Help Yourself -Sample Credit report Dispute Letter

Helping Yourself

Step 1: Tell the consumer reporting company, in writing, what information you think is inaccurate. Include copies (NOT originals) of any documents that support your position. In addition to providing your complete name and address, your letter should identify each item in your report you dispute; state the facts and the reasons you dispute the information, and ask that it be removed or corrected. You may want to enclose a copy of your report, and circle the items in question. Send your letter by certified mail, “return receipt requested,” so you can document that the consumer reporting company received it. Keep copies of your dispute letter and enclosures.
Your letter may look something like the one below.

Sample Dispute Letter

Date
Your Name
Your Address,
City, State, Zip Code

Complaint Department
Name of Company
Address
City, State, Zip Code

Dear Sir or Madam:

I am writing to dispute the following information in my file. The items I dispute also are encircled on the attached copy of the report I received.

This item (identify item(s) disputed by name of source, such as creditors or tax court, and identify type of item, such as credit account, judgment, etc.) is (inaccurate or incomplete) because (describe what is inaccurate or incomplete and why). I am requesting that the item be deleted (or request another specific change) to correct the information.

Enclosed are copies of (use this sentence if applicable and describe any enclosed documentation, such as payment records, court documents) supporting my position. Please investigate this (these) matter(s) and (delete or correct) the disputed item(s) as soon as possible.

Sincerely,
Your name

Enclosures: (List what you are enclosing.)

Consumer reporting companies must investigate the items you question within 30 days — unless they consider your dispute frivolous. They also must forward all the relevant data you provide about the inaccuracy to the organization that provided the information. After the information provider receives notice of a dispute from the consumer reporting company, it is required to investigate, review the relevant information, and report the results back to the consumer reporting company. If this investigation reveals that the disputed information is inaccurate, the information provider has to notify the nationwide consumer reporting companies so they can correct it in your file.

When the investigation is complete, the consumer reporting company must give you the results in writing, too, and a free copy of your report if the dispute results in a change. If an item is changed or deleted, the consumer reporting company is not permitted to put the disputed information back in your file unless the information provider verifies that it is accurate and complete. The consumer reporting company also must send you written notice that includes the name, address, and phone number of the information provider. If you ask, the consumer reporting company must send notices of any correction to anyone who received your report in the past six months. You also can ask that a corrected copy of your report be sent to anyone who received a copy during the past two years for employment purposes.

If an investigation doesn’t resolve your dispute with the consumer reporting company, you can ask that a statement of the dispute be included in your file and in future reports. You also can ask the consumer reporting company to provide your statement to anyone who received a copy of your report in the recent past. You can expect to pay for this service.

Step 2: Tell the creditor or other information provider, in writing, that you dispute an item. Be sure to include copies (NOT originals) of documents that support your position. Many providers specify an address for disputes. If the provider reports the item to a consumer reporting company, it must include a notice of your dispute. And if you are correct — that is, if the information is found to be inaccurate — the information provider may not report it again.

Reporting Accurate Negative Information

When negative information in your report is accurate, only the passage of time can assure its removal. A consumer reporting company can report most accurate negative information for seven years and bankruptcy information for 10 years. Information about an unpaid judgment against you can be reported for seven years or until the statute of limitations runs out, whichever is longer. To calculate the seven-year reporting period, start from the date the event took place. There is no time limit on reporting information about criminal convictions; information reported in response to your application for a job that pays more than $75,000 a year; and information reported because you’ve applied for more than $150,000 worth of credit or life insurance.

The Credit Repair Organizations Act

Credit repair organizations must give you a copy of the “Consumer Credit File Rights Under State and Federal Law” before you sign a contract. They also must give you a written contract that spells out your rights and obligations. Read these documents before you sign anything. And before signing, know that a credit repair company cannot:

  • make false claims about their services
  • charge you until they have completed the promised services
  • perform any services until they have your signature on a written contract and have completed a three-day waiting period. During this time, you can cancel the contract without paying any fees.

Before you sign a contract, be sure it specifies:

  • the payment terms for services, including the total cost
  • a detailed description of the services the company will perform
  • how long it will take to achieve the result
  • any guarantees the company offer
  • the company’s name and business address

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