Scammer tells Wayne County woman she won $1 million, Porsche but she must pay $399

A common scam has a new twist where the scammers will escort you to the bank to get cash to pay for your "prize."

The BBB issued a warning after a Wayne County woman received a call telling her she won $1 million and a Porsche. The caller told the woman she needed to pay $399 and offered to escort her to the bank to get that money.

"This new spin to lottery and sweepstakes scams is very scary because it means the scammer could possibly be local, said Melanie Duquesnel, BBB president & CEO. "The goal could be simply to get the money, but in this instance, the worst-case scenario could be much more nefarious."

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Variations of this scam include telling the victim that they need to pay taxes, shipping costs, or other fees must be paid first by the victim. Payment methods can include wire transfer, certified check, or prepaid gift card.

Another version of this scam involves an official-looking letter that arrives in the mail notifying the recipient they're the winner of a jackpot, often from a foreign lottery because it is illegal in the U.S. and Canada to enter a foreign lottery by phone or mail. The letter includes a seal or other insignia to make it look authentic. 

In some cases, a check is included to cover the taxes on the winnings. The instructions then specify to deposit the check into a personal bank account and wire or use a prepaid debit card to send the "taxes" to a third party. However, the check is fake and will bounce then causing the account holder to pay for overdraft fees in addition to the amount of the check.

BBB tips for spotting these scams:

  • You’ve got to play to win. A notification that you have won a prize in a contest you do not remember entering should be a red flag. Keep track of all sweepstakes entries, so it's easy to check if a legitimate contest-related company is confirming winnings. When entering, read the fine print and rules for how prizes are claimed.
  • Don't pay upfront fees to claim a prize. No legitimate sweepstakes company will ever ask to pay a fee or buy something to enter or improve the chances of winning — that includes paying "taxes," "shipping and handling charges," or "processing fees" to get a prize.
  • Checks will bounce after the bank allows the account holder to withdraw cash from the deposit. Check processing is a confusing business, as is the terminology. Even if a bank representative tells you that a check has "cleared" you can’t be sure it won’t be detected as a fake weeks later. One thing you can be sure of is that you will be on the hook for any funds drawn against the amount.
  • Be suspicious of irregular communication. Real sweepstakes will not notify you via text or bulk mail. They will not send a check in the mail without first confirming with you. And you won’t be notified that you are a winner and have to respond or act within 24 hours to collect your prize.