Congratulations, you’ve won $2.5 million are words we’d all like to hear, especially in these tough economic times. Many listen to their heart instead of their head and fall for a growing number of scams.
The Knudsens of Omaha received an official notice stating they'd won a sweepstakes, only they’d have to pay a fee to collect the $2.5 million. “I’m not about to send them any amount of money for something I have won," says Dorothy Knudsen.
Scammers are mailing and calling anyone who might be convinced they've won a Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes. By phone a man named Jim with a Caribbean accent told Six On Your Side reporter Mike McKnight that he’s a big winner.
“Mike McKnight, congratulations to you sir,” said a voice on the phone. “You have won yourself $2.5 million from the Publishers Clearing House."
All Mike had to do was wire $500 to a person in Jamaica before Ed McMahon knocks on his door. “We’re going to come and knock on the door like this, you hear that? Yes, we'll have Mr. McMahon and the whole Publishers Clearing House crew ready to make a presentation with your big check."
The Better Business Bureau says the sweepstakes scam has exploded in Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota. “They're very persistent, they make a lot of phone calls and they do a good job convincing people they've actually won a prize," says the BBB’s Jim Hegarty.
There have been a flurry of these sweepstake scams and the Better Business Bureau is issuing a fraud alert. It has received numerous calls from potential victims, but so far nobody has fallen for the scam. The best warning sign is that in a legitimate sweepstakes you don't have to pay to win.
“Never pay anything to receive a prize,” says Hegarty. Once you’ve wired the money, it’s gone and you’ll get nothing in return.
The Knudsens agree the sweepstakes scam looks and sounds convincing. “It looks very official, very good bit,” says Dorothy. “I'm not falling for it."