November 1, 2010 - The Vernon Hills Police Department has been alerted to several different scams that are currently making the rounds. The first thing we'd like to remind you is: If it sounds too good to be true, IT'S A SCAM!
One resident has received letters from two different companies, claiming she's won sweepstakes that she never entered. The "company" will send a check that's been "deducted from your winnings," so that you may deposit it and then send a check to pay for the "required taxes" on your winnings (preferrably before the check you received clears and is discovered to be fraudulent). Sunlife Financial Trust, Inc. and Customer's Compensation Draw were the two names used in these particular scams. A big indicator that it was a scam was that the letters arrived in plain envelopes with no return address and had stamps from Canada (one company claimed to be based in the UK and the other in New York).
Another resident has received telephone messages from "Global International," telling him it's imperative that he call them regarding a check he wrote. If he would have called the 876 number provided (which is in Jamaica), he would either have been faced with a lottery-type scam or a straightforward international calling rate fee scam (your phone bill will be charged for a international call - and you most likely never even spoke to anyone).
A third scam being seen is a letter from "UBI Payment Services." This letter has been received by several residents of a retirement home, claiming they "are guaranteed to receive $5,000 if you return the release form." It claims to be a "contest (of skill) and not a lottery, game of chance or gambling." They assure the recipient that "there is no purchase, payment or contribution necessary to enter or win." Except that the recipient has to sign a card and return it. Providing a signature may allow the scammers to open accounts in the victim's name (their address has also been confirmed by returning the card). Or the company may later claim that the victim "won" the contest and now has to pay those taxes in order to receive the winnings. Oh, the part about the skill? All you have to do is to circle the correct answer to this question: 20 + 5 = 25 21 23.
If you ever receive a telephone call, e-mail or a letter in the mail that appears suspicious, please contact your local police department to report it. At the very least, do some research on the company that's claiming to provide you with free money. There are many good websites available, as well as government offices you can contact.
If you are the victim of an online fraud, you can contact the Internet Crime Complaint Center. To report a scam e-mail, forward it to: firstname.lastname@example.org. For mail fraud, contact the Postal Inspectors. And for telephone fraud, contact the FTC.
The FTC provides these tips:
- Don’t pay to collect sweepstakes winnings. If you have to pay to collect your winnings, you haven’t won. Legitimate sweepstakes don’t require you to pay “insurance,” “taxes,” or “shipping and handling charges” to collect your prize.
- Hold on to your money. Scammers pressure people to wire money through commercial money transfer companies like Western Union because wiring money is the same as sending cash. If you discover you’ve been scammed, the money’s gone, and there’s very little chance of recovery. Don't send a check or money order by overnight delivery or courier, either. Con artists recommend these services so they can get your money before you realize you’ve been cheated.
- Look-alikes aren’t the real thing. It’s illegal for any promoter to lie about an affiliation with — or an endorsement by — a government agency or any other well-known organization. Disreputable companies sometimes use a variation of an official or nationally recognized name to try to confuse you and give you confidence in their offers. Insurance companies, including Lloyd’s of London, do not insure delivery of sweepstakes winnings.
- Phone numbers can deceive. Some con artists call using Internet technology that allows them to disguise their area code: although it may look like they’re calling from Washington, DC, or your local area, they could be calling from anywhere in the world.
- File a complaint with the FTC. If you receive a call from someone who claims to be a representative of the government trying to arrange for you to collect supposed sweepstakes winnings, file a complaint at ftc.gov or call 1-877-FTC-HELP. Your complaint will be most useful to enforcement officials if you include the date and time of the call, the name or phone number of the organization that called you, the FTC employee name that was used, the prize amount, the amount of money requested, the payment method, and any other details.
Be alert, don't become a victim!