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It's the latest "lucky
day" con, a new twist on those age-old
lottery and sweepstakes scams. And true
to tradition, there's only one winner -
the con artist, not the consumer.
The scam goes something
this is Agent Jones with the U.S. Customs
Service. I'm calling because we're holding
a package for you at the Canadian border
and we need to examine the contents before
we can forward it to you. The package
contains a check in your name for several
thousand dollars from a contest or sweepstakes.
We can forward this to you immediately,
but first you need to pay the taxes and
fees that are owed on this prize. You
can wire the fees to us at ..."
Of course, there is no
prize. The tip-off is that the U.S. Customs
Service never calls consumers about packages
at the Canadian border. But by claiming
to be a government official, the caller
makes you think the deal is real.
The Federal Trade Commission
(FTC) and the U.S. Customs Service say these
deals are duds and illegal ones at that.
Here's how to respond should you get a call
from a "custom-ized con."
Hang up if you're asked to pay for a
prize. Free is free.
Tell callers if you don't want to hear
from them again. If they call you back,
they're breaking the law. It's also illegal
for telemarketers to lie about the nature
of a prize in a prize-promotion scheme.
Don't send money - cash, check or money
order - by courier, overnight delivery
or wire to anyone who insists on immediate
Keep information about your bank accounts
and credit cards to yourself - including
the numbers, unless you know who you're
Hang up if a telemarketer calls you
before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. That's a
tip-off to a rip-off.
Report the call
to the FTC and the U.S. Customs Service.
The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive
and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information
to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a
complaint or to get free
information on consumer issues, visit www.ftc.gov
or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The
FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related
Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil
and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.