A new version of the common “Sweepstakes” phone scam is tricking Hoosiers into thinking they won a prize from the Indiana Gaming Commission. In this scam, the caller claims to be from the Gaming Commission and says you’ve won a sweepstakes – all you have to do is pay gaming taxes on the winnings and the money will be yours.
There are many versions of this scam and callers claim to be from a whole host of organizations, such as Publishers Clearing House, the Mega Millions International Lottery, the Hoosier Lottery and more.
Regardless of who the caller claims to be, even if it is a legitimate organization, don’t fall for this scam.
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller says red flags should be raised if you are asked to pay any fees on your winnings, especially if you are asked to wire the payment or purchase prepaid cards to make the payment.
In one case recently reported to the Attorney General’s Office, a victim wired $6,000 to a bank overseas and then was told to wire $2,000 more for a gaming tax. It was at that point, he identified this as a scam. Once you send money to a scam artist, it is very difficult to get it back.
If you get a call like this, hang up immediately and do not send money. The Indiana Gaming Commission does not offer sweepstakes and would never contact you for this purpose. The Hoosier Lottery is the agency that distributes lottery winnings in Indiana and they do not initiate contact to winners over the phone and will never ask you to pay any fee to claim the prize.
Zoeller offered tips to avoid falling for a sweepstakes scam:
1. In general, never do business or send money to an incoming caller, no matter who they say they are. Always initiate the contact yourself if you believe that organization is legitimate. Find their correct contact information from their website or the phone book.
2. Never give personal information, such as your Social Security number or bank account numbers, to anyone claiming that you have won a prize.
3. Never pay anyone a “handling” or “processing” fee to obtain winnings.
So far this year, the Attorney General’s Office has received more that 550 call from consumers reporting sweepstakes or lottery scams.
Victims or those targeted by the scam can file complaints with the Attorney General’s Office at www.IndianaConsumer.com or by calling 800-382-5516.