May 20, 2013 1:06 PM by MELISSA CANONE
The thought of winning $3.5 million will bring a smile to anyone's face, but an unexpected letter informing you that you are a winner is much more likely to cost you money if you fall for the scam.
The Better Business Bureau of Acadiana is warning local residents of the latest in a long line of scams using the BBB name and logo as well as that of Nevada-based Mega Millions Lottery.
According to the letter, a resident has won $3.5 million and a new Mercedes-Benz, a scam that sounds similar to the Jamaican phone Scam, which has operated in the Acadiana area for months.
The scam letter claims that the resident was entered into the lottery in a ridiculous way, such as paying bills on time or purchasing a product branded with the lottery using a credit card.
The letter says winners were "randomly drawn" from qualifying entrants and checks will be delivered.
But there is a catch. Winners are told they will have to pay $1,500 in the form of a cashier's check to cover non-existent fees, including customs duty and traffic, form stamps, storage fees, and an FTC Stamp, among other fake charges.
It is illegal in the US to ask any resident to pay any taxes, fees or other charges in order to collect lottery or sweepstakes winnings. It is also illegal for foreign sweepstakes and lotteries to operate in America.
The letter also falsely states that the payment is a written agreement between the Mega Millions Board of Directors, the Federal Trade Commission, Better Business Bureau and the U.S. Department of the Treasury, all of which are untrue.
The BBB offers the following tips to avoid being taken in lottery and sweepstakes scams:
You must enter to win. Remember that lottery tickets must be purchased and sweepstakes must be entered to win. Sweepstakes usually involve application paperwork that you have personally completed and government grants have a thorough application process as well.
Never pay any money to collect supposed sweepstakes winnings. If you have to pay to collect your winnings, you're not winning. Legitimate sweepstakes don't require you to pay "insurance," "taxes" or "shipping and handling charges" to collect your prize.
Never wire money. Scammers pressure people to wire money through commercial money transfer companies or GreedDot MoneyPaks because wiring money is the same as sending cash. When the money's gone, there's very little chance of recovery.
Never provide personal information. Scammers can be very charming and charismatic and will lure or pressure consumers for personal information, which could be used for identity theft.
Foreign lotteries and sweepstakes are illegal. Beware of lottery applications or win announcements coming via telephone or mail from outside the country. Foreign lotteries violate federal law and participation in any way is illegal.
The BBB of Acadiana works for a trustworthy marketplace by maintaining standards for truthful advertising, investigating and exposing fraud against consumers and businesses. Please contact the BBB at www.acadiana.bbb.org or (337) 981-3497 24 hours a day for information on businesses throughout North America.
The BBB of Acadiana services the parishes of Acadia, Evangeline, Iberia, Lafayette, St. Martin, St. Landry and Vermilion.
Acadiana residents can now have BBB information in the palm of their hand with the official BBB Search app, a convenient, mobile BBB solution available for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. The app can be found at: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/bbb-search-find-local-businesses/id440014505?mt=8.