Better Business Bureau issues warning after New River Valley man loses $1,600 to lottery scam

BBB Serving Western VA warns of lottery and sweepstakes scams and what to do to avoid them

The Mega Millions jackpot continues to grow and it has people feeling lucky.

The Jackpot for tonight’s drawing stands at $850 million. The Powerball is at $730 million; that drawing is tomorrow night.

The Better Business Bureau Serving Western Virginia warns this is a time scammers take advantage of with lottery and sweepstakes scams.

Lottery and sweepstakes scams have been around for years. Julie Wheeler, president and CEO of BBB Serving Western Virginia told 10 News those type of scams are in the top four every year for most reported and most money lost.

Wheeler said people let their guard down they hear scam artists use well-known names like Publishers Clearing House for a sweepstakes win, sometimes they even use BBB to create credibility.

It should be noted the real Publishers Clearing House is BBB accredited.

Here are red flags you’ll want to remember to avoid falling victim of these types of scams:

  • You can’t win a sweepstakes or lottery if you didn’t enter
  • You don’t pay anything up front to win a lottery or sweepstakes
  • The scammer will ask for an alternative form of payment like a gift card because it’s easy for them to use and hard for you to track when it’s too late.

“There’s different ways they’ll get your money though. There’s the way where they ask you to get gift cards or to wire money to pay upfront before you get your winnings, sometimes they’ll send you a fake check and ask you to deposit that and send part of it back to claim your winnings,” said Wheeler.

She advises if you do receive a check and you cash it, don’t overspend. You should wait until the check has been processed through the entire banking system. If it’s a fraudulent check you could later be responsible for the money that leaves your account during that time.

The tips to avoid these scams may seem obvious but one New River Valley man said it is easy to overlook when emotions are high.

Raymond Bradford, a 77-year-old veteran from Giles County said he nearly fainted when he got the call he won $8.5 million from a Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes, but it quickly turned into a nightmare.

The caller told Bradford he needed to send gift cards to cover insurance, shipping, taxes and other fees to claim the money and car he won and he would be reimbursed for the amount that wasn’t used.

Bradford paid a total of $1,600 in four pre-paid visa gift cards. When sending the last gift cards he noticed some red flags and called the BBB to see if his win was legit.

Bradford said it hadn’t dawned on him it was a scam before he sent that last gift card because he entered into Publishers Clearing House drawings in the past. He hopes no one else falls for it, as he did.

“It definitely ain’t obvious, I mean these people are smooth-talking, they’re slick and makes you believe everything they hear from them,” said Bradford.

He said the scammers are still blowing up his phone, asking for more money. He’s been in touch with the police as well as the BBB.

For additional insight on what to look out for with these types of scams, here’s some more information.

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