Residents in North Idaho have been receiving postcards with claims that they have won $100 in “Gift Savings” at Walmart or Target. All the recipient needs to do is call the phone number on the card, provide information, such as a mailing address, and pay a $1 fee by credit or debit card.
As you may have guessed, the postcard giveaway is a fake. The scammer is counting on calls from recipients to claim the prize. When those calls come in, the scammer hopes to use the credit or debit card information to make unauthorized charges. Or if persistent, the scammer may ask for personal information in order to commit identity theft for even more financial gain.
One North Idaho woman thwarted the scammer’s attempts when she refused to pay the fee with her credit card. Instead she offered to mail a dollar to the sweepstakes company. The scammer declined this method of payment and declined to provide mailing information for the company – two red flags.
This type of scam seems to jump from one geographic area to another and could arrive as a letter instead of a postcard. The Better Business Bureau offers the following tips to avoid becoming a victim of this type of scam:
• Avoid signing up for free trials for unfamiliar services or with unfamiliar businesses.
• Do not provide personal information to claim “prizes” in contests that you never entered.
• Don’t pay a fee, sometimes called a tax-fee, to get something that is “free.” A legitimate sweepstakes will not make a winner pay fees.
If an offer or prize sounds suspicious or too good to be true and a company name is provided, you can check the company out by visiting www.bbb.org or calling (509) 455-4200.
The Deceptive Mail Prevention and Enforcement Act covers deceptive mailings featuring games of chance, sweepstakes, skill contests and facsimile checks sent through the U.S. mail. If you received mail with a fraudulent offer, you can report it to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s Criminal Investigations Service Center at postalinspectors.uspis.gov. You can also report it to the Washington State Attorney General’s Office at www.atg.wa.gov/ FileAComplaint.aspx.
Erin T. Dodge, BBB editor