Scam

CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey warns consumers to be on guard when notified of winning a sweepstakes, especially those associated with the name of a legitimate company or government agency.

The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division routinely receives word of the sweepstakes scam circulating in West Virginia, although it 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?” Morrisey said. “However, it is important consumers verify the legitimacy of any win.”

Targeted consumers are told they have won a lottery or sweepstakes, but that they must pay the taxes or fees upfront in order to collect the prize. Those who send money lose it, as the impostor disappears and the winnings never arrive.

While there are contests that do award prizes, consumers must carefully verify the legitimacy of any win.

For instance, Publishers Clearing House, state lotteries and government agencies never require winners to pay money to receive their prize. That means potential winners should never agree to send cash, wire money or provide numbers associated with a credit/debit card or bank account.

Furthermore, Publishers Clearing House does not notify winners by phone, but instead by in-person visit or certified mail.

Winning a sweepstakes the consumer didn’t enter, being asked to pay upfront fees or taxes and being pressured to act immediately should all be red flags.

Consumers with questions or think they may have been victim to a sweepstakes scam can 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 at www.wvago.gov.

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