Better Business Bureau: Beware of lottery, sweepstake scams
By Tracy Bracy
Whether it's mail, phone or in person, con artists are using the promise of prizes and large cash winnings to steal from honest people.
Victims often get an unsolicited phone call, email or letter from someone notifying them they've won a lot of money or a prize. Keep records of any sweepstakes you have entered. To avoid falling victim to a lottery or sweepstakes scam, beware of these three red flags.
1. 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.
2. 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. Legitimate prizes do not come with processing fees, and taxes are paid directly to the Internal Revenue Service after winnings are collected.
3. 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 transactions, so you will have little to no way of getting your money back.
Scam model and talent searches
The summer months are a popular time for talent and modeling search promotion companies to solicit local events through radio and direct mail advertising. Despite paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars, people have filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau that lofty promises are not being met. People typically request a refund but report having difficulties tracking down the agency. Before attending an event or signing with a modeling or talent agency, the bureau recommends consumers find the name of the agency and visit bbb.org.
Consider it a red flag if the sales pitch promises regularly scheduled jobs and big earnings. Take your time and read the agreement or contract carefully, paying close attention to details.
Reviewing your car insurance policy
The bureau advises all drivers to take a few minutes every year to read their auto insurance policies or talk to an insurance agent to make sure they understand what it covers. Knowing as much as possible about your coverage is the best way to ensure you get your money's worth. If you find yourself in a situation in which you need to report an incident, be sure to do so as soon as possible. If your car is not drivable, your agent or claims center may be able to save you time by having the car towed directly to the repair facility instead of to a temporary storage facility. Know what your deductible is and ask about any additional charges before authorizing work.
Tracy Bracy is the regional director of the Better Business Bureau for Corpus Christi/Victoria. Contact her by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.