ATLANTA — The Governor’s Office of Consumer Protection is warning consumers about a scam being perpetrated by a company calling itself American Direct Sweepstakes and Promotion Co.
Consumers are receiving notification letters purportedly sent by Lincoln Financial Group, an alleged agent of the company, informing them they have won $20,000 in a sweepstakes. The letter also falsely represents that the sweepstakes is affiliated with Publisher’s Clearing House. Enclosed with the letter is a check for about $1,500, purportedly to cover non-resident taxes due on the winnings.
Consumers are instructed to call a number for instructions on how to claim their prizes. When the consumers call the number, they are instructed to deposit the check and then wire most of the $1,500 “back to the business” so the taxes can be paid on their behalf. The consumers are told they will receive a certified check for $20,000 after the payment has been received.
Only that’s not what happens. This is a classic fake check scam. The check sent may look real and may even fool the bank, but it is counterfeit. Yet because banks are required by law to give you access to the funds you deposit within a few days, the check will still “clear.” However, that does not mean the check is legitimate or that funds are actually available from the issuing bank.
Unfortunately, it can take weeks or longer to discover the check is a fake. In the meantime, the consumer already will have sent money to the scammer, who often is located in another country. When the check bounces, the consumer is responsible for reimbursing the bank the amount of the fraudulent check. Incidentally, because this is a scam, no check for $20,000 ever arrives.
Consumers easily can identify this type of scam. Legitimate sweepstakes will never ask you to pay taxes or fees to claim a prize, nor will they require you to send money to enter a sweepstakes.
If you receive a bogus sweepstakes solicitation or if you have been the victim of a sweepstakes or fake check scam, contact the Governor’s Office of Consumer Protection at 404-651-8600 or 1-800-869-1123. You also can report it to the National Fraud Center at www.fraud.org.
For more information, contact Bill Cloud at the Governor’s Office of Consumer Protection at 404-656-3790.