Institutions Requesting Information:
Local and national credit union members are being called on their home phones and being asked if they would like to apply for a loan, lower their interest rate on their credit card and being asked other personal information such as Social Security number, birthdate, pin numbers and debit/credit card numbers. Peninsula Federal Credit Union will never call their members requesting any personal information over the phone. NEVER give out your personal information over the phone but if you have please contact the credit union immediately.
Winning a big sweepstakes prize is a dream come true. However, that dream can quickly turn into a nightmare when you find out is a scam. The following facts are things to look out for when you receive a notice that you won a sweepstake.
Sweepstakes scams want you to pay to receive the prize.
Legitimate sweepstakes will never ask you to pay fees to participate or to receive a prize. You should never have to pay sweepstakes taxes, handling charges, service fees, customs fees, or any other kind of charges up front to receive anything you've won.
Sweepstakes scams use free e-mail accounts
If you receive a win notification by email, check the email address that sent the notification. A notification that is sent from a free email address like Gmail or Yahoo Mail is a warning sign of a scam.
Also, be wary of email addresses that look close to, but not the same as, those from official companies. Like "firstname.lastname@example.org" might look OK until you notice that the official company has an "s" after "publisher".
Sweepstakes Scams Tell You You've Won Contests You Don't Remember Entering
The only sweepstakes you can win are the sweepstakes you've entered. If you receive a win notification from a giveaway that you don't remember entering, it's a red flag.
Sweepstakes Scams Send You a Large Check with Your Win Notice
To fool people into thinking that a sweepstakes scam is legitimate, con artists send counterfeit checks along with their phony win notifications.
If the check is worth more than $600, it's a sure sign that you're being scammed. Legitimate sweepstakes require affidavits before sending out any prize valued above $600.
Sweepstakes Scams Instruct You to Wire Money
Does your win notification include instructions to wire cash to the sponsor? If so, run. Even in the few legitimate cases where you have to pay money to a sponsor, you would not be required to use a wire service.
A new twist on this sweepstakes scam signal: con artists are now asking their victims to buy money pack cards or gift cards from retailers like Walmart to either give them the gift card number or to send them to the con artists.
Sweepstakes Scams Pressure You to Act in a Hurry
Sweepstakes scammers have reasons for wanting you to act quickly: they want to ensure that they receive their money before their check bounces or you read an article like this one and realize that you are being defrauded.
Sweepstakes Scams Ask for Bank or Credit Card Info to Receive Your Prize
Do you have to verify your bank account number or credit card number to get your prize? This is a clear sign of a sweepstakes scam.
Legitimate sweepstakes do not send wins by direct deposit, nor do they need to withdraw money from your bank or verify information using your credit card number.
The "Win" is From a Lottery (Especially a Foreign Lottery)
Win notices from foreign lotteries are even more suspicious. Not only do foreign lotteries have the same restriction as domestic lotteries, but it is also illegal to sell tickets for foreign lotteries across international borders.
It's impossible to win a lottery without buying a ticket. Even if you did buy tickets, the lottery wouldn't call or email you. You'd have to find the winning numbers in a newspaper, the internet, or on TV and compare them to your ticket.
Sweepstakes Scams Don't Know Your Name or Other Info
Does your win notification address you by a generic title like "Dear Winner"? If so, this is a strong warning sign. Many sweepstakes scams send thousands upon thousands of fake mails or emails to every address they can get their hands on, often without knowing the names of the people they're contacting.
Sweepstakes Scams Pose as Government Organizations
To appear more legitimate, some sweepstakes scams pretend to come from government organizations such as the FTC or the "National Sweepstakes Board" (which doesn't actually exist).
Real sweepstakes sponsors send their win notifications directly to the winners. Government organizations are not involved in awarding sweepstakes prizes, nor do federal marshals hand out the prizes.
Sweepstakes Scam Notifications Arrive by Bulk Mail
When legitimate sweepstakes sponsors send out win notifications, they use first class postage or services such as FedEx or UPS to deliver them.
Sweepstakes scam artists, on the other hand, want to target the most people at the least cost in order to keep their profits high. They lower their costs by using bulk mail for their mailings.
Sweepstakes Scams Contain Many Typos
Scan your win notification. Do you notice a lot of bad grammar, missing words, or spelling mistakes? These are red flags for a scam.
Any company could make a minor mistake when typing out a win notification. However, multiple or glaring errors are a bad sign.
Be very cautious of any win notices that have a lot of errors, use strange or stilted language, and otherwise sound "off."
Prevent P2P Scams:
Peer-to-peer (P2P) payment platforms like Apple Pay, Zelle, Venmo, and Cash App, offer a fast and convenient way to settle restaurant bills with your friends and send money to your family. Unfortunately, they are also becoming a popular payment method for scammers.
Many consumers mistakenly believe that P2P payment systems have protections similar to a debit or credit card since many P2P payment systems are affiliated with banks. This is not true. Once you send money via a P2P payment system, it is nearly impossible to get the money back or refunded.
There are several steps you can take to avoid falling victim to this scam:
Don’t use P2P services to purchase products. If an online retailer requires payment via a P2P payment service, it is probably a scam.
Only pay with P2P services to people you know. P2P payments are meant to be used between friends and family, or with people you know well and trust, like your hairdresser or a babysitter.
Double- and triple- check the address, username, or phone number of the person you are trying to send money to. If you make a mistake, and send the money to the wrong person, it can be very difficult or even impossible to get the money back. If you are worried you may have the wrong person, double-check the email address/username, and try sending a small amount first to confirm that your intended recipient received it.
Opt-in for stronger security. Almost every popular P2P platform offers the ability to create a personal identification number (PIN). Once the PIN is created, a user will be required to enter it when they open the app, or before they are able to transfer money. This extra layer of security can help protect your money if your phone falls into the wrong hands.