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Prize scams in your mailbox

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Some scammers hide fraud in the fine print; others put it right up front in CAPITAL LETTERS. The FTC has just sued a handful of people and companies that allegedly mailed hundreds of thousands of notices with brazen lies to people in the US and other countries. The promotions, featuring phony claims like “YOU HAVE WON A CASH PRIZE!” and you are a “CONFIRMED PRIZE WINNER,” went mostly to older people.

According to the FTC, the defendants churned out supposedly personalized notices with excited messages about cash prizes of $800,000 and up. The mailers promised that a “confirmed” or “guaranteed” prize was “awaiting disbursement” to the recipient, but first the recipient had to pay a fee — usually about $25 — before the “expiration date.” The FTC says the real story was very different from the hype. There was no prize and companies listed on the prize mailers often didn’t exist. If a person replied to one offer, the defendants sent more. If someone sent money, the defendants kept it. To top it off, people who responded received more deceptive cash prize promotions from other companies that bought the defendants’ lists.

The FTC, US Department of Justice (DOJ) and US Postal Inspection Service work together to investigate and bring cases against fraudulent mail operations. DOJ’s new information about mail fraud reveals some of the names scammers use for phony promotions.

If you get mail promising cash, prizes or other riches, don’t send any money. A legitimate sweepstakes will never ask you to pay a fee or buy something to enter, or improve your chance of winning. If your friend, family member or neighbor gets promotion letters, tell them about our mail fraud scams fact sheet, or — better yet — print a copy to share. If you spot a scam, please report it to the FTC.

This article by the FTC was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

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