Better Business Bureau: Scammers masquerading as BBB investigators


ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - Scam artists are calling Virginia residents pretending to be the Better Business Bureau in a new twist on a common sweepstakes scam.

According to one Roanoke resident, she received a call from a woman claiming to be a BBB investigator. This caller said BBB had uncovered unclaimed sweepstakes winnings of $400,000. The catch? The funds would only be released if the consumer first paid $800 for taxes and processing fees.

It's yet another attempt by scammers to steal money while using the BBB name.

"BBB has never, and will never, be involved in sweepstakes or lottery giveaways," said Julie Wheeler, President & CEO of BBB Serving Western VA in a written statement, released on Friday. "We often hear of scammers using the BBB name because it is so recognizable and is often associated with trust."

The consumer told the scammer they wanted to speak to the Better Business Bureau about the matter first. At this point the caller quickly rattled off a North Carolina phone number in an attempt to appear legitimate. Thankfully the consumer instead called BBB at the 800-533-5501 phone number she had used several times before.

To avoid falling victim to a lottery or sweepstakes scam, beware of these five red flags:

You can't win a contest you didn't enter. You need to buy a ticket or complete an application to participate in a contest or lottery. Whether it's by phone or mail, scammers seek out their targets. Verify that it is a legitimate business by doing research on the company.

You're offered ‘too-good-to-be-true' prizes. It is almost always a large sum of money, but there is always a catch. Scammers attempt to make it sound easy to claim your prize. The reality is it is very unlikely that someone will give away large sums of money with no strings attached.

You have to give personal information. Anytime someone tries to get your bank account number, Social Security Number or other sensitive information, that should be an automatic red flag. There is also no need to access financial information, like a credit card number in response to a sweepstakes promotion.

You have to pay to win. Don't be blinded by the promise of a large sum of money in the future. If they are asking you to give them money first, that's a red flag. According to the Federal Trade Commission, it's illegal to ask you to pay or buy something to enter or increase your odds of winning. Legitimate prizes do not come with processing fees, and taxes are paid directly to the Internal Revenue Service after winnings are collected.

You have to wire money or use prepaid debit cards.  If you are asked to use these transfer methods in order to get a prize or any other large sum of money, that is a major red flag. It's difficult to track these types of transactions, so you will have little to no way of getting your money back.

Start With Trust. Contact BBB first -especially if the caller uses the BBB name! BBB receives calls on sweepstakes scams every day and can let you know if the offer is s scam.

BBB is a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. The BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Business Reviews on more than 4 million companies and 11,000 charities, dispute resolution services, alerts and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. Please visit www.bbb.org for more information.

If you need more information, contact the BBB at (540) 342-3455 or (800) 533-5501.