KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Who doesn’t dream of winning a lot of money or a big prize? That’s why scammers still use the promise of a prize to get your money or personal information.
The good news is that there are ways to tell you’re dealing with scammers. They use the names of organizations you might recognize or pretend to be from well-known companies that run real sweepstakes.
WATE’s Don Dare talked with a couple who were asked to return a call about their winnings. Don was there when they called. The scammer followed the con artist’s business model to the “T”.
The spiel goes like this. One, tell them they won millions of dollars. Two, throw in an expensive exotic car to make them feel really good. Three, tell them “don’t mention your winnings to anyone,” and “No” this is not a scam.
Tom and Rita Lancaster look out for one another. Married for 53 years, the former Navy veteran and electrical contractor and his wife are like many retirees. They live on a fixed income and they’re aware of how scammers can fleece people their age. Recently, a caller claiming he’s with a group for seniors told them they had struck it rich.
“He said, congratulations you have won $3.5 five million and a new Mercedes. He said what color would you like to have? I said red,” said Rita.
Within moments, the scammer sent Rita this picture of a red Mercedes.
“He was with American Senior Auxiliary. He told me his name, Donald Kennedy. And he told us that, told me that he didn’t want us to tell anyone that it would be private,” said Rita.
To claim the car and the money, they were directed to go to Walmart and buy $350 worth of pre-paid money cards.
“They said that was to release the paperwork on the car and the money,” said Tom.
Once he had the cards, Tom was told to call Warren Carter. Being suspected of a scam, the couple reached out to Dare. He was there when Tom made the call and then received a return call from Warren Carter.
Voice on the phone: Hello.
Tom: Warren, are you there?
Voice: I’m here, yes. Do you have a pen and paper?
Tom: Yes, I do.
Voice: Okay, write down the name, write down the name of the person you make the payment to.
At this point, Mr. Carter apparently didn’t really have his act together. He was hesitant, couldn’t spell names, and didn’t know his geography.
Voice: The first name is Marion. (long pause)
Voice: That is Marion, that is, ah. You have Marion, right?
Voice: Roger. (he spells name) R O G.
Voice: E R S. Marion Roger.
Voice: You got Marion Roger right?
Tom: Yes, I do.
He first said Roger – R O G E R – but spelled it R O G E R S. So, which is it?
Voice: The address, you ready?
Tom: I’m ready.
Voice: Where are you located? Tennessee?
Tom: Yes, sir.
Voice: How far away is Tennessee from Pennsylvania? Because I don’t want the payment to take so long. You are closer to ah, I think you’re closer to Illinois?
Tom: No, Pennsylvania probably.
Voice: Pennsylvania probably closer. Ah. You know I just made a silly mistake.
A “silly mistake,” he said. Then Warren Carter gave Tom yet another name to write down. Then, Tom had a question.
Tom: Warren is this a scam?
Voice: No, buddy, no way. No you’re going to get your reward and the car.
Voice: Why do you think I’m calling you? I wouldn’t call you with any BS like that.
At that point, Tom ended the call. The Federal Trade Commission says sweepstakes scams increase during this time of the year, the holidays. You know it’s a scam when they want you to send money to claim your prize or prizes. But If you pay, you’ll lose your money and find out there is no prize.
“I just hate to see people, they could fall for this stuff. Like the car, where do they get this from?” said Tom.
Plenty of contests are run by reputable marketers and non-profit organizations. However, there are some things to know before you drop in a quick entry, or follow instructions to claim a prize. Real sweepstakes are free as it’s illegal to ask you to pay or buy something to enter or to increase your odds of winning. No real sweepstakes company will contact you to ask for money so you can claim a prize. If you’re unsure, contact the real company directly to find out the truth.