CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is warning consumers to be on guard when notified of winning a sweepstakes, especially those associated with the name of a legitimate company or government agency, due to a recent scam affecting state residents.
Attorney General Morrisey’s office issued a press release on Friday to warn residents of this recent scam. The release stated that the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division has routinely received word of a sweepstakes scam circulating in West Virginia, and has noticed increased activity in recent weeks.
“Consumers can fall prey to sweepstakes scams as the ploy can appear very attractive — who doesn’t want to win money?” Attorney General Morrisey said. “However, it is important consumers verify the legitimacy of any win.”
In this scam, targeted consumers are told that they have won a lottery or sweepstakes, but that they must pay the taxes or fees upfront to collect their prize, according to the release. However, those who send money lose it, as the scammer disappears and the consumers’ “winnings” never arrive, the Attorney General’s Office stated in the release.
The Attorney General’s Office said that while there are contests that do award prizes, consumers must carefully verify the legitimacy of any contest, sweepstakes, lottery, etc. that notifies them saying they are a winner.
The Attorney General’s Office said that Publisher’s Clearing House, state lotteries and government agencies never require winners to pay money to receive their prize. This means potential winners should should never agree to send cash, wire money or provide numbers associated with a credit/debit card or bank account, according to the release. The release went on to say that Publisher’s Clearing House does not notify winners by phone, and instead does so by an in-person visit or certified email.
Winning a sweepstakes that the consumer did not enter, being asked to pay upfront fees or taxes and being pressured to act immediately should all be red flags, according to the release.
The Attorney General’s Office urges any consumers with questions or who think they may have been a victim to a sweepstakes scam to contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-368-8808, the Eastern Panhandle Consumer Protection Office in Martinsburg at 304-267-0239 or visit the office online here.