Criminals clean up with fraudulent sweepstakes calls - WSMV News 4

Criminals clean up with fraudulent sweepstakes calls

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Criminals are taking advantage of a popular sweepstakes to trick people into sending money, and experts have a warning for you to be careful not to fall victim.

Many people are familiar with seeing commercials advertising Publishers Clearing House and its sweepstakes winners, but scammers are taking advantage of people in Middle Tennessee, calling them to say they've won.

Instead, they are stealing their money.

The scammers trick their victims by telling them they must first pay taxes on the prize money up front in order to collect their winnings. They tell the victim to pick up a Green Dot Card, load it with money and send it in.

That money never goes to the IRS. Instead, it lands in the scammers' post office box.

The Green Dot Cards, found in many convenience stores, work like cash, are prepaid and untraceable.

"Every single consumer who fell for this, paying taxes on their winnings, was a victim of fraud," said Kathleen Calligan, CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Middle Tennessee.

There have been several recent cases in the Nashville area, including one victim who paid $750.

"One thing you need to know about the Publishers Clearing House is that they never ask you to pay if you're a winner," Calligan said.

The biggest thing you can do to avoid becoming a victim is place a phone call directly to Publishers Clearing House.

"Let them verify if you're actually a winner," Calligan said.

To reach Publishers Clearing House, call toll-free: 1-800-392-4190.

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