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You could be a winner! Or not?

March 02, 2015

By Pam Leibfried

March 1-7 is National Consumer Protection Week!

Last year, I had the distinct pleasure of calling a few lucky Alliant members to inform them that they were the winners of an Alliant sweepstakes contest. Have you ever received a call like that? I have, but sadly, the one I received was not legitimate – I was NOT a winner. Instead, the call was from a fraudster trying to get personal information from me. When I informed him that I don’t give out personal information over the phone and asked him to send me information via mail so that I could confirm his company’s legitimacy with the Better Business Bureau, he immediately hung up on me.

How to recognize a prize-winner scam

So how do you know if a “you’re a winner” call or email is a scam? Below are some red flags:

  • They say you need to pay a fee, tax or customs duties before you can receive your prize.
  • They ask for your credit card number.
  • They ask for your bank account information.
  • They ask you to wire money or send money to a prepaid debit card.

What should you do? 

  • Never share financial information (bank accounts, credit or debit card numbers, etc.).
  • Never give anyone your Social Security number over the phone.
  • Never wire money to a caller or emailer. 
  • Report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-382-4357 (TTY 1-866-653-4261) or ftc.gov/complaint. If you have caller ID, write down the caller’s number so you can give that information to the FTC, along with the name of the caller and company (if they gave you that information). 
  • Pass the information on to friends and family, especially anyone who may be particularly vulnerable to such scams, such as an elderly relative or neighbor. A quick phone call to your grandpa or aunt could help protect them from a scam. 
  • Learn more on the Consumer Information blog on the Federal Trade Commission website.