On this episode of Going Public, we talk with Whitney Quick, regional director of the Better Business Bureau, about a report they recently released on one of the top three frauds experienced across the nation and Canada, lottery and sweepstakes frauds. According to the report, these scams took nearly $117 million from victims just last year.
Lindsey: Tell us about this new report.
Whitney: Our report came out because in 2015, there was a man in St. Louis. He was in his 80’s, [and] he got a phone call saying he had won $60 million. He was contacted by, obviously, scammers, and swindled out of $8 million. What they did is: they told him they would send an armored truck out to his house with the money in it, and that all he had to do is pay the money up front - the taxes and everything else. And they ended up taking, like I said, $8 million from him. He didn't even need the money - he was a self-made millionaire - and he just wanted the money to donate to a university, which was pretty sad.
L: What were some of the findings in this report?
W: Typically, the scam victims are between 65- and 74-years-old. And right now, because our grandparents have social media, a lot of it is coming through Facebook. What they’re doing is, a ‘friend’ will reach out and tell them that they’ve won, and whenever they think that it’s a friend, they obviously think that it’s more credible. And so they’re more likely to trust and give out more information.
L: So, a friend’s account? Is it hacked?
W: Typically, yes, and a lot of these are coming from Jamaica. It’s coming through many channels: phone calls, text messages, pop-ups on your smartphone... you’ve seen it all. Anytime that you’re on an internet browser and it pops up and says, ‘You've just won $500,’ then you’re more likely to give out your personal information whenever you think that you have won a prize.
L: What are some of the tips you all have at the Better Business Bureau for consumers that are being caught in these frauds?
W: First of all, in order to win the lottery, you actually have to play the lottery. So, you didn't just win the lottery out of nowhere, and Facebook does not have a lottery. There was a thing going around Facebook, and it was ‘Mark Zuckerberg’ saying you had won ‘this, this, and this,’ and they have announced that there is not a Facebook lottery. Also, true lotteries don’t ask for money, and if they want taxes, they take it out themselves. If you do have questions about a lottery like Publishers Clearing House, if somebody says that you have won it, you can immediately hang up and call Publishers Clearing House to verify whether or not you have. And then, you can also report it on the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries, and also check with your local state lottery agency. And then, if you are dealing with any of these, obviously you need to report those to the police. But you can also report those on ‘scam tracker’ at bbb.org.
L: What are some good rules of thumb in terms of dealing with frauds?
W: Typically, if you’re dealing with any company you’ve never heard of, you can look them up on our website at bbb.org. Check out and see if they are a real company or not, check out the reviews and complaints, and we have all of that there. It’s free, you can look at it, and see anything anyone in the last three years has complained about with a company.