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Woman issues warning after losing thousands to phony sweepstakes

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PULLMAN, Mich. -- Debra Noble said a half-million dollar sweepstakes sounded like the perfect match for her student loan debt, a failing car, and an aging computer.

"I was desperate for the money, basically," Noble said.

However, the Pullman resident said that desperation ultimately put her into even more debt. It started with a couple of phone calls she received out of the blue.

"[The caller] said, 'No, no, I promise you. This is not a scam. I'm Tony Lavaski, and you have won $550,000, a new dell computer, and a Mercedes,'" she recalled.

So what's the catch?

Noble said the caller told her, "'I'm going to pay off your credit cards and then you can pay me back with your prize money.'"

Going against her best judgement, Noble said she went for the deal. The man opened a checking account in Noble's name, and he deposited funds for her to use to pay off her credit cards. In the meantime, as she waited for her prize money to arrive, she said she paid the man back with a cash advance. Noble said she then wired him the money -- about $4,500 dollars. Days later, the funds he provided to her had bounced.

Noble said, "It all went slap right back on there, plus the fees, and late fees and over the limit fees and all that because it basically doubled what I had on my credit card."

She said she took on about another $4,000 dollars in debt. Those prizes, of course, never came.
The bogus sweepstakes phone number is still active.

Noble wants to warn others about this scheme.

The Better Business Bureau suggests you don't pay upfront fees to claim a prize, be aware of funds or checks that can bounce, as well as with irregular communication.

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