You get a phone call from an excited caller saying you’ve won a trip, a car, or a lot of money. Next, they ask you to send money before you get the prize. That is a sure sign of a scam.
Recently, we’ve heard about a spike in prize scam calls. Although there are some legitimate contests, remember: there are a lot of scams. Here are a few ways to spot a prize scam:
- Scammers ask you to pay before you can claim your prize. Legitimate sweepstakes don’t make you pay a fee or buy something to enter or improve your chances of winning. Scammers might try to sound official and say it’s for “taxes,” “shipping and handling charges,” or “processing fees.” Don’t pay to claim a prize, and never give your checking or credit card number for a sweepstakes promotion.
- Scammers ask you to wire money to “insure” delivery of your prize. Don’t do it. Legitimate sweepstakes don’t ask you to wire money. Once you wire money, you can’t get it back. The same goes for sending a check or money order by overnight delivery or putting money on a prepaid debit card.
- Scammers send you a check and ask you to send some of the money back. But the check is fake, and you’re responsible for repaying the bank.
- Scammers use the names of well-known companies for prize scams. Con artists often pretend to call from well-known companies to make themselves appear legitimate and gain your trust. If you don’t remember entering, you probably didn’t. If you think it may be legit, use a search engine to find the company’s real phone number. Call to confirm that you entered a contest before responding to any claims that you won.
Scammers are spoofing news sites to promote health products
Scammers will do just about anything to rip you off. They will create fake websites, use fake endorsements from public figures, lie about the effectiveness of their products, and much more.
We did some investigating and found that a number of shady companies selling “brain booster” pills are using these exact tactics to promote their products. Here’s how:
They build spoofed websites that look like the news sites that we know and trust. The sites aren’t real news sites and the endorsements featured on the sites, often from figures like Stephen Hawking, Anderson Cooper and others, are fake. Representatives from Hawking and Cooper have confirmed that neither has endorsed any “brain booster” products.
The spoofed news sites link you to the sales page for the product, which allows you to place an order with a credit or debit card. The scammers may claim that the pills are proven to work — that you’ll experience an increase in concentration and memory recall by large percentages, but they lack evidence to support their claims. It’s a scam.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) advises that you talk to your doctor to get the facts about health products before purchasing.
If you already paid money to a scammer with a credit or debit card, you may still be able to get your money back.
- Call the card company immediately using the phone number found on your monthly statement
- Alert them to the fraudulent charge right away
- Ask if you are still eligible to get your money back
- Ask if you should get a new card with a new number to prevent more fraudulent charges
Global Connect technical support scam, part 2
Last fall, the FTC shut down an operation called Global Connect, which sent deceptive pop-up messages to people’s computers. The pop-ups claimed the computers had problems when they really didn’t, and the operators scared thousands of people into paying hundreds of dollars each for tech support services they didn’t need.
We recently learned that some of these same people are getting called again. The callers claim to be working with the company the FTC shut down, sometimes using the name “Global Connect.” People report that the caller asks for remote access to their computer, either to reestablish service or to process a refund into the person’s bank account.
Don’t do it. Never give someone who calls you control of your computer. Instead, hang up and report it to the FTC. And, in this particular case, none of the companies involved in the FTC’s case against Global Connect should be calling you. They have no legitimate reason to call you – and, anyway, almost all of them are out of business. But, if you get one of these calls, be sure to tell the FTC.