Never Send Money to Claim Sweepstakes Winnings - WBAY

Target 2 Consumer Alert

Never Send Money to Claim Sweepstakes Winnings


Wouldn't we all love to win the Publisher's Clearing House and walk away with millions?  Well, criminals are using that very well-known name to dupe people.

It's a pretty common scheme--victims are asked to send money to claim their winnings.

A woman who fell victim to the scam is sharing her story in hopes of preventing others from losing everything.

Gertrude Hsia was thrilled when she got a letter saying "Dear Winner, you won $1 million from the Publisher's Clearing House."  Inside was a check for more than $12,000.

"I had to supposedly deposit that check and then ask for $8,000 in the money orders to pay fees and a small tax," said Hsia.

Hsia followed the instructions and bought eight $1,000 money orders.  She was told once she paid the so-called fees, she would get her $1 million dollar prize.

At the post office, Gertrude's purchases of multiple money orders was a red flag.  A clerk notified postal inspectors.

"I contacted the victim to find out exactly why she was sending $8,000 in money orders to an individual she did not know," said Cheryl Swyers, U.S. Postal Inspector.

Sadly, it was too late.

Gertrude had already sent the money orders and the check she deposited bounced.

The retired 73-year old on a fixed income was devastated.

"It's really sad when you don't know where that money has gone," she said.

Postal inspectors say this scheme is all too common and the elderly are often the target.

"If you are a winner in a legitimate sweepstakes, you will never be asked to pay fees to get your winnings," said Swyers.

Gertrud says she learned the lesson the hard way.

"It will never happen again. But it's $8,000 too late. From now on, it all goes into the garbage."

Because of a bigger investigation into lottery scams, postal inspectors were able to catch and prosecute the recipient of Gertrude's money orders.

Again, with a lottery you should never be asked to pay fees to get your lottery winnings.

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