CONSUMER FIRST ALERT: People losing millions to sweepstakes scams

Published: Jan. 16, 2022 at 6:00 AM CST
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - There’s been a troubling trend in sweepstakes scams and people are losing millions of dollars.

The Federal Trade Commission says in 2021, people lost more than $185 million to prize, lottery and sweepstakes scams. These scams come in third in the list of top frauds of 2021.

An Action 2 News viewer in Door County reached out to Consumer First Alert about one of these scams.

Garey Bies is a retired Door County deputy.

“The call appeared on my answering machine that my wife had won $5.5 million dollars and to call us immediately,” Garey says.

“I know very well that if they ask you to pay something it’s not real.”

Bies played along with the caller in a conversation rich with details about how to claim the big prize. Bies was told he had to pay 10 percent in taxes to claim the prize.

“That’s the a-ha moment if they ask you for money, you should be tipped off that it’s a scam,” says Susan Bach, Better Business Bureau of Wisconsin.

Losses from prize scams are at a three-year high.

“In fact, our study shows the typical victim is over the age of 55 and they lose almost $1,000 when they are targeted by these scammers,” says Bach. “Ninety-percent of the time they do lose money.”

Bies wanted to alert people who may be looking for a quick payday during difficult times.

“I think especially in tough economic times, you know, somebody might be in dire straights or difficult situation that they might fall for this,” says Bies.

Bies says he played along with the scammer to get details to share with law enforcement.

“I hope it saves somebody some embarrassment or money, especially,” says Bies.

If you do fall victim to one of these scams, make sure you report it.

“The biggest change in this age-old scam is the inclusion of social media and reaching out to potential victims,” says Bach. “As with any type of lottery scam, if you didn’t enter, you didn’t purchase a ticket, if you didn’t enter there’s no way you could possibly win.”

CLICK HERE for tips on spotting a sweepstakes scam.

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