FOX 8 Defenders: Beware of lottery & sweepstakes schemes

A lottery scheme uses a group called the Consumer Protection Bureau to collect personal information or money from potential victims. The Consumer Protection Bureau website sounds official, but it's not a government agency, and the Better Business Bureau warns people not to confuse it with the legitimate federal agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The only difference between the two names is in the word financial. Consumer advocates like the BBB say it's similar enough to be misleading, but there's no relation. In fact, the BBB website shows the Consumer Protection Bureau is not a BBB-accredited business. It also gives the Consumer Protection Bureau a failing grade of F.  That's because the BBB says consumers reported receiving calls from this group announcing that they had won money, but so-called agents with the group would then direct consumers to first pay a fee to secure that prize.

"There are never fees involved in winning - never, never," explained FOX 8 Defenders Executive Director Susan Tramontana. She says that's the No. 1 tip regarding lotteries and sweepstakes that send out mailers to consumers.

Tramontana says a New Orleans-area consumer fell victim to a sweepstakes scheme. "They continued to bombard her with calls that, you know, she has won a Mercedes Benz, she has won $25,000, a small fee is needed, all you need to do is send us the fees in advance, and we will be able to give you your prize." Tramonta said. "This particular consumer lost $2,600."

Besides not paying up to claim a prize, consumer advocates say you should never wire money to secure a prize. It's extremely hard to trace and even tougher to recover. Also, they urge you not to provide pre-paid card numbers because anyone with that number can drain funds from the card electronically. That's what happened to the local consumer.

Consumer advocates point out that you have to enter to win.  If you didn't purchase a lottery ticket or enter a sweepstakes, they say that should be a red flag.

As far as that lottery scheme, we called the toll-free number listed on the Consumer Protection Bureau's website for comment, but so far haven't heard back.

If you have a consumer complaint, call the FOX 8 Defenders staffed with Volunteers from the National Council of Jewish Women at 1-877-670-6397.

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