LANSING, Mich. — The Better Business Bureau is warning of a new form of phone scam where the victim is told they won a big sweepstakes but they have to pay money for various reasons to get the big prize.
“Never pay someone to receive your prize,” says the Better Business Bureau Serving West Michigan in a release.
A Lansing man got a call from people who said they were from the Jay Adams American Award Protection Agency. He was told he had won $350,000 in a sweepstakes but he had to pay $3,500 for insurance. To pay, he was told to go to a Bank of America branch in Lansing and deposit the money into a specfic account.
After receiving the money, the scammers called back and said the sweepstake check was in Detroit and the victim had to pay $17,500 more to get the check released from customs.
“As with all scams, once they have you on the hook, they ask for more,” says the BBB release.
The man talked the scammers down to $7,000 and made the deposit at the same bank branch.
The victim got yet another call and was told that he actually won $3.5 million, because the grand prize winner had been disqualified. All he had to do was pay $31,500 for insurance. The victim said he didn’t have that kind of money and asked to just receive the original amount he was told he had won. After that, the scammers stopped returning his calls, and the victim called the Better Business Bureau.
The BBB confirmed with Bank of America the account the received deposits was legitimate and had been opened under the name Dan Mercede at a branch in Connecticut. The bank said they couldn’t do anything, and that the victim needed to contact law enforcement. The FBI told the victim there was nothing they could do, given what the FBI considered to be a small amount of money.
The BBB Serving West Michigan offered three points to remember with scammers:
- International lotteries are illegal in the United States.
- Never pay someone to receive your prize.
- Get advice from trustworthy people before you ever give confidential information or money to someone.