Sweepstakes scam uses FTC Commissioner’s name in vain

A couple of weeks ago, we told you about a sweepstakes scam using the FTC’s name to get people to send money.

Now, there’s another sweepstakes-themed FTC imposter scam, and this one lays it on thick:

It starts with a letter from a lawyer in California. He says the FTC appointed him to notify you about a claim [spoiler: we didn’t], and includes a letter from FTC Commissioner Joshua Wright enlisting his help [spoiler: it’s fake].

The letter says you entered a sweepstakes and won $2.5 million, but you didn’t claim your prize, so it was forfeited. But thanks to an FTC investigation into sweepstakes companies, you have a chance to claim your $2.5 million prize.

Sure, you could claim it on your own. Or, you could do it the “cheaper, faster, and completely painless” way — hire the firm to help you. If you read the detailed retainer agreement he wants you to sign, you’ll see it will cost you thousands. 

The whole story is made up. No prize. No FTC case. But it can be tricky to tell. The scammer includes actual FTC advice and throws in legal-sounding phrases. He really wants your money.

Some scammers tell pretty good lies, mixing in truth to make them stick. Here are some facts you can bank on:

  • No FTC Commissioner or staff is involved in giving out sweepstakes prizes.
  • The FTC doesn’t oversee sweepstakes. We do go after sweepstakes scams.
  • No federal government agency will ask you for money to claim a prize.
  • If you enter and win a legitimate sweepstakes, you don’t have to pay insurance, taxes, or shipping charges to collect your prize. If you have to pay, it’s not a prize.
  • If an FTC case has resulted in refunds, you can find the details at ftc.gov/redress.

Government Imposter Scams come in other varieties, too. Learn to spot them, whatever their story.

Tagged with: FTC, mail, prize, scam, sweepstakes
Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

Comments

Thanks...and we citizens need help with the robo calls that are overwhelming us. We need stronger legislation to curtail the Direct Marketing Association and other lobby groups attempting to overwhelm our privacy.

My telephone carrier, AT&T refuses to initiate action to prevent scammer calls to my phone line for the FTC's previous 'anti-robo call' award. Now the FTC has initiated another 'award' program to discourage robo-calls. Why doesn't Congress just 'force' the telephone companies into obeying 'anti-robo-call' countermeasures that the FTC has awarded?

This company called me tonight about 10:00 pm saying that I won all these money, prizes as well cars & all I have to do is give them my personal info. They also stated that there were from the FTC in LasVegas Nevada & gave me this phone number# 1-702-623-5589, saying that I get all this for free that, I won this in some contest that I never enter into or sign up for, but says that they are legit for me to check them out, that I give them a call back tomorrow after I check them out. Please someone call that number for me & see if this is what they say they are because I'm no fool, I no one thing business don't ask for your whole ss# over the phone, the ask for the last 4.

It's a good thing that you didn't tell them anything, becuase that call was not from the FTC! The FTC doesn’t manage sweepstakes and give away prizes, we go after sweepstakes scams.

We have an article about prize scams with more tips.

No federal government agency will ask you for money to claim a prize.  Please file a complaint about this at ftc.gov/complaint.

Thank youu for the information. Now if you could find a way for us to block unwanted and robo calls.

I had a company con me out of $4100.00 and what should i do? Is there any way of getting my money back?

You can file complaints about a company with state and federal agencies. There is no guarantee they can get your money back, but you might be able to see if they have a case against the company. You can contact the state Attorney General and local consumer protection agencies in the state where the company is located, and file a complaint at ftc.gov/complaint. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau also takes complaints.

Let me tell you, nobody has inform me that I have won 2 millions dollars or another amount of money; In this caqse What I must do it?

So in your title you are comparing the scam to one of the biblical ten commandment sins and FTC Commissioner Joshua Wright to god?

Mike, are you taking exception to that because you're one of the scammers?

I'm sorry this has happened. It has been happening to me, perhaps in a slightly different way. Some of my so called "friends" received nasty emails from "me" (not me) which were actually from a hacker that ha stolen a large percentage of one of my hard drives. They then proceeded to send awful emails to people who chose to believe that they actually came from me! Their loss, I don't miss them a bit :) I do miss the charity I founded that the hackers destroyed! A CHARITY? Who did they hurt? The people we were helping. :(

I' give the FTC a lot of credit staying on top of these scams. Great job.

I expect to see change after the investigation, that could make me happy.

I also have problems with my privacy and identity, not to mention reputation and the safely of my family!1

I CONTINUE TO RECEIVE CONSTANT SCAM CALLS, THOUGH I HAVE REGISTERED ON A "DO NOT CALL" LIST. I LAST REPORTED 30 SUCH CALLS, AS I KEEP TRACK OF THEM. I HAVE MORE THAN 50 MORE TO REPORT.

The "Do Not Call" list is for legitimate businesses. Scam calls are made by criminals, who want to fraudulently get some $$$ or personal information from you. They're committing a crime, they could careless about the DNC registry, it's just another law that they're breaking. Please it's not that difficult to understand.

I am getting dozen of phone calls daily as of April 18, 2015 from an Area code (876 which is Jamaica, that said I won a $2.5M and a 2015 Car in Sweepstake which I never enter, and they don't take (NO)for an answer. They wont go away I have had to turn off my cell phone, the number is only one way to me, so I cant call them back. The Jamaica number is: 876-276-0814 and Federal Trade Commission is calling to tell me about this Prize and that number is: 202-558-4602 and the guy name is: Michael Lorenzo, Does FTC call US or what???

No! The FTC does not call people about prizes and the FTC does not supervise sweepstakes. No federal government agency will ask you to send money to get a prize.

Please report this to the ftc at ftc.gov/complaint. Give as many details as you can. That will help law enforcement track down scammers.

I received a phone call, then a letter. I wastold that I had won $445000000. They wanted $199.00 to process the claim and my bank info to wire the money. I said I will not pay and will not give my bank info for them to wire anything. I told them they are committing fraud. Then yesterday I received 2 letters telling me how to call back with my bank info so they could send the money. The address is: International, Lotto Commission, The World Lottery, C\o San Vivente Paul u EOD, 28007 Madrid (ESPANA) FROM: VICE PRESIDENT, Ref No : OBC/VC/0999/171, Tel: 011 34 611 363 369.

It's good that you didn't send money or give them your bank account numbers. Your story has useful details for a complaint.  Please report your experience at ftc.gov/complaint. Your complaint will help the FTC and other law enforcement agencies bring scam artists to justice.

Just received a call from a man saying I have won 2.5 million.....wouldn't that be great. He said his name was Scott Webb from the FTC located in Virginia. Phone # 276-378-8313 He didn't ask for money but said he would call me back. Just a FYI for anyone this kind of call.

I believe I might have been contacted by this Webb person between January-February

My Father who was 84 years old was targeted by this: JM Kingston- 876-385-2984 until his recent Death of: April 9, 2015. Now this same person is calling my home asking to speak to my Father and I just informed him that my Father has Died! Beginning in Nov., 2014 My Father had his Bank Account targeted and hit 12 times, and on a daily basis was receiving over 41 pieces of mail a day from various Charities, Veteran Winnings, Starving Children, Indian Missions, and the list goes on and on. I personally addressed 41 Letters during the Christmas Holiday 2014 to have his name removed and also not to be transferred or sold to any other companies! Also his phone number was on the Do Not Call List, and so is mine and yet it continues! I had over 5 Better Business Bureaus involved in over 5 Different States, and also several Attorney Generals involved is stopping these Scams and even the Foreign Scams from: The Netherlands, etc! My Father was a Dementia/Alzheimer sufferer and believed he was a Winner!! This drove him off the Deep End and all he would do all day long was sit and read over and over again the Winning Letters. Sent Money out to these Scammers for Processing Fees. There needs to be a way to stop these Scams!! Even after I addressed the Letters to have his Name, Address Removed he still continued to receive mailings, and when he received a Gift in exchange for his Processing Fee he was then charged Monthly Charges out of his Banking Account, for instance: over $54.00 a month for a Magazine Savers, where he could choose 5 Magazines a Month of his choice!!! And then the Jewelry Scam, and the Travel Scam, and Shoppers Advantage Scam! Not only did I mail notification to have his Name, Address removed I also contacted them by email when there was an email address! I do believe that Scams as I have mentioned absolutely pushed my Father's Mental State to the Brink and also contributed to his Death! Supposedly my Father was putting a Bag of Trash in his Trunk of his Car when he dropped Dead of a Heart Attack. He had all his little Winning Scams addressed and ready to go in the mail, and was also going to go get the Money for each of them to get Money Cards and Money Orders to send off this very day he Died!! This has got to stop!

Well said Mari. Let's make the government responsible for not doing there job properly and sometimes actually contributing to these scams, as seen in episodes of American Greed. The FTC, and the FBI need to work together better to put a true stop to this by making it ILLEGAL to spoof your number and spoof your caller id! It's because of this why there are more scams now then there were when the do not call list was created. OWN UP government

I got scammed this week again! Got a text message from someone claiming to be an FBI agent (I already filed a report with them) and a good friend of my cousin (in Texas) about the man who scammed me in 2014, claiming to be with the US Grants Dept. I also received a Facebook message from someone claiming to be my cousin, that I would receive a text from this FBI agent. She had also been scammed and he helped her get her money back (all a lie, this person had hacked my cousin's facebook account). I guess being a nurse for over 30 years and having children screaming in my ears has made me too gullible. It makes me sad (and MAD) that people keepdoing these kinds of things and some of us keep falling for them.

These are useful details for a complaint.  Please go to ftc.gov/complaint to report this.

Scammers buy and sell lists of names of people who lost money to fraud.  If your name is on a list like that, you might get more messages promising to get your money back. This article about Refund and Recovery Scams explains more.

It sounds like Tell your cousin about this article; it has tips for what to do if your email and social media accounts have been hacked.

Your welcome for helping spot scams like these. Now where is my money when u catch these scammers? We keep reporting calls and it's almost like your doing nothing about it to better REGULATE the do not call list!

I have a question FTC 70k winnings but its liies after lies after lies even i told them that i got a gambiling problem they dont wanna proceesed the withrawals what can i do i got couple of thousand deposits to them can i file a dispute here and believe they are not regulated by any agency.

You can file a complaint with the FTC at FTC.gov/complaint.

Can i have the 800 number?

You can call the FTC complaint line at 1-877-382-4357.

Thank You!

Warning since like my complaint ifeels like is not goin anywhere atleast im goin to give a warning to the hardcore gamlers like me.
Don't play and make a deposits on any RTG casinos Flatform the game is fix and even you beat them on there on game still they will give you alot of BS blackjack 500 times i double downraised bets and splits all to the dealers and they said the game is random.If you play basic strategy u have no chance to win dealer always showing a facecard.Like what i said FTC im drowning in debt im goin to jail soon even a supreme court judge ican convinced them and im willing to give 100% of the refund to any charity you like.

What happened to my complaint?

I received a phone call from (425) 206-8546 at 11:06 a.m. EDT saying I was approved for my greenhouse grant. I haven't applied for any greenhouse grants but used grants.gov website to search for a grant that I might qualify for to produce for the federal Government. It's the only website I used since I specifically want to produce for the government and not as a typical commercial greenhouse business.

By sending out 1000's of these, they 'roll the dice' and if just 10% respond, they have made money. Every new generation has people who fall for this scam without realizing the government doesn't have sweepstakes.

I keep getting calls some blocked, unknown, but mostly calls from numbers from Jamaica. Says he's name is Mike Freeman, badge # 3806528, and he works for the FTC. Says I won 5.5 million. Gives out a check number and prize number. All I have to do is send $250 for federal costs and fees. I keep refusing and tell them to calling. I've blocked most of the phone numbers from my phone so far I'm up to around 18-20 numbers total that I've blocked. But they just keep calling back from a new number out of Jamaica. Is there anything you can do to stop these criminals. I can provide phone numbers that they are using if need.

Thank you for sharing your experiences. These are useful details for a complaint.  Please go to ftc.gov/complaint to report this. We can't address complaints you write about in blog comments.

I just got this letter about winning the money and thanks to all the comments now I know its a scam

Just recieved a phone call today about someone who said they were from the FTC and was overseeing the prize distribution of 750k from a casino to my grams.Left his number and extension as well as the # to Victory Sweepstakes to claim the prize.Well after reading no and finding out the FTC doesnt over see any sweepstakes now realize its a scam and am glad i did all the checking i did for her.The number they called from was 202-574-7007 said his name was Jay adams so plz becarefuland protaect the ones you love.

Thank you for sending this comment.

Please report this to ftc.gov/complaint so the information goes into the database that law enforcement uses for investigations.

I received a phone call stating I was 2nd place winner. I was to receive $795,000.00 tax free. The IRS already took the tax out. I was receiving this because I buy P&G products. I was to send a postal money order to an Agent from Homeland Security in Calif. over night by Fed Ex and then I would receive my money. I got in touch with P&G and was told this was a scam. I would like to report it to the Fed. Trade Comm. also. Please catch these guys they do sound very legitement. I hate to see some poor person believing them and loosing all their money.

I have more info on the prize money that they said I won. The person's name that called was Peter Singleton and his number is (804) 767-8678. The claim # for my prize is 7878PG. Also the person and address I was to send the money to is
Douglas Canyon
1042 Ruby Drive
Vacaville, Ca. 95687

These are useful details for a complaint.  Please report your experience at ftc.gov/complaint. Your complaints help the FTC and other law enforcement agencies bring scam artists to justice. We cannot address complaints if they are submitted through the blog comments.

This same man, Peter Singleton, scammed my mother out of $1,800+ between June and October of last year (2015). I have given every number he calls from to the FTC. They keep changing their numbers, but I would encourage anyone contacted or victimized by him to report whatever number he called from to the FTC. Sooner or later, the feds are going to catch up with him and bring him to justice.

The scammers call my mother every day from Jamaica, and when she no longer took their calls, she was contacted by a "Thomas White" from NYC...allegedly an attorney who will send her the $1.2M winnings in a sweepstakes and will come by to deliver it via UPS or FedEx. Is it legit?

Scams often start with a card, call or email saying that you you won a trip, prize, lottery or sweepstakes. The person who calls is excited and can’t wait for you to get your winnings. But then, they say you must pay a fee, taxes, or customs duties. They might ask for your credit card number or bank account information so you can pay. Or they'll ask you to wire money. You are about to lose money, not win it. 

Never pay to collect a prize. No matter whay they say the money is for – taxes, shipping and handling charges, or processing fees – don’t believe them. Don’t send money or give them your checking account or credit card number.

Take your time. Scammers will say you have to act now. Take your time and talk to someone you trust before you do anything.

Tell people you know about it. By talking about scams, you might help someone you care about avoid falling for one.

Tell the FTC about it. Report scams at ftc.gov/complaint. Your report makes a difference and can help law enforcement investigate scammers.

NY Lottery are scum. They're the biggest crooks since Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

I was contacted last week and when I checked my voicemail I heard it was from the FTC saying I won some money. Well I called them back believing everything. Wouldn't you know it, I got his voicemail. Well he called me back a few days ago. He said that I had won $750,000 from Publisher's Clearing House and that I had an unclaimed check. After the IRS took their cut I would still get $450,000. For a lady on SSDI, I was excited because I need a new handicap van. Well he said to call NAUPA (national association of unclaimed properties administrators) and they would take me through the steps to getting my money. He though, would remain my advisor. Well NAUPA said I had to have a state registration seal from the Treasury dept in order to cash such a large check. It would only cost me 0.5% of my final winnings which is $2,250. After telling them that I'm a disabled woman who doesn't have that kind of money, my payment went down by 50% which is still $1,125. OMG! Cutting it in half doesn't make it magically appear in my hands or bank acct. I texted my son and told him about my good fortune. He suggested that I call PCH and check to see if I had won any money. Well they had no record of me ever winning anything. :( So I decided to also call the FTC who proceeded to tell me that I had been scammed. Again :( Well my "advisor" keeps calling me to check the process of my "case". Now I have to tell you that aside from being disabled, I also have a heart condition. OMG, during my excitement of hearing I had won all that $$$, my heart condition kicked in and almost sent me to the hosp. What Gary Fitzgerald didn't count on was someone checking out his story. He said he worked under the FTC for the bureau of consumer protection. Please watch for these phone #'s Gary Fitzgerald 1-312-690-7518 and NAUPA 1-617-981-6164, 617-861-3959. All of which are cell phones. I did a reverse lookup. I filed complaints with the FTC and PCH. BTW the Treasury dept said that it's a scam, as well. I hope they're caught, put away and the key lost for good.

I wanted to tell everyone that I rechecked the phone #'s and they did come from call centers of a sort, but I still believe this is a scam. When I initially checked them I didn't see the small print under the #, I only saw the words mobile phone owner further down the page. Anyone can create a "call center" to scam someone. So still watch out for these guys.

Oh Lord what a day I'm having! I just was told that those phone #'s were cell #'s after all. And now I have someone else from the bureau of consumer protection calling me saying that the last people that called were scammers and he has the correct info on my winnings. Instead of $750,000 I won $350,000 and now it's from Millennium Sweepstakes. When does it end?! No division of the FTC contacts you about sweepstakes winnings. Well here are the new names and #'s of the new scammers. From the BCP you have officer Andrew Green at 202-851-0518 and from Millennium, Ashley at 414-800-2071. He's in DC and she's in Milwaukee. Somebody please put an end to this. My heart can't take much more of this.

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