The Office of the District Attorney, 18th Judicial District, is joining with federal, state and local government agencies and national organizations to celebrate the 14th annual National Consumer Protection Week March 4-10, 2012. During NCPW, organizations share tips and information that help consumers protect their privacy, manage money and debt, avoid identity theft, frauds and scams. Here in Colorado, the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office would like to warn you about Sweepstakes and Foreign Lotteries and how to avoid being scammed.
If you receive a letter or telephone call stating “It’s your lucky day, you’re a winner!” Be very skeptical. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Thousands of people receive solicitations every day in some form or fashion asking them to pay a fee in order to receive the prize. The fee is disguised in a number of different ways, including:
- As a shipping and handling fee.
- As a tax.
- As an insurance cost.
Con artists sometimes send a check claiming it is part of your winnings, telling you to deposit the check and asking you to send a portion of the money back to them for processing fees. If you have truly won a prize, you do not have to pay some type of fee in order to obtain your winnings.
Foreign lottery promoters contact United States citizens via the telephone and mail trying to entice them to enter a lottery. It is against federal law to purchase lottery tickets via the telephone or through the mail.
Things to remember to avoid being scammed:
- “Think” – did you really enter a sweepstakes or contest?
- You don’t have to pay to collect the prize.
- Don’t provide personal information, including credit card information.
- Add your telephone number to the Do Not Call registry: Colorado 1-800-382-7041 or www.coloradonocall.com; National 1-888-382-1222 or www.donotcall.gov.
- Opt out of direct mail solicitations. Mail a written request asking to be removed from marketing lists: include your name, complete home address, and signature to: DMA Mail Preference Service, Box 643 Carmel, NY 10512-0643 or online at www.dmaconsumers.org ($5.00 fee for on-line request).
- Opt of e-mail solicitations. Use the Direct Marketing Associations form at www.e-mps.org to opt out of unsolicited commercial e-mail.
- Don’t feel pressured to send money.
- Ask for something in writing – legitimate promoters will provide details about the contest.
- Verify legitimacy of the sweepstakes promoter with the Better Business Bureau or a Consumer Protection Agency.
- Remember, con artists are not your friend and they lie.
In prize promotions, telemarketers must:
- Tell you the odds of winning.
- Tell you there is no cost to win or participate.
- If asked, tell you how to participate without costing you anything.
- Tell you the conditions you must meet to win prize.
The Deceptive Mail Prevention and Enforcement Act prohibit:
- Claims stating you are a winner unless you have actually won.
- Buying something to enter the contest or receiving future mailings.
- Mailing fake checks not marked non-negotiable or of no cash value.
- Mailings that imply they are from a government agency (by using seals, names or endorsements).
Remember, you are in control of the situation! You do not have to pay to win a sweepstakes! Prizes are awarded by chance. If the promoter wants you to pay, it is a fraud.
Criminally prosecuting foreign sweepstakes and lotteries is a challenge, because the individual(s) committing the crime could be anywhere in the world. The District Attorney’s Consumer Protection Line provides assistance to victims of crime and answers questions on white collar crime issues. If you have a question or need assistance, call the Consumer Protection Line at 720-874-8547 or visit the District Attorney’s Web site at www.DA18.org.
For National Consumer Protection week, you can go to www.ncpw.gov to read, view, download and order multiple copies of educational materials provided by NCPW partners and to see a calendar of events nationwide.