Sweepstakes, lottery scams target Tennessee consumers

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — As the holiday shopping season approaches its annual fever pitch, the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance’s (TDCI) Division of Consumer Affairs is alerting Tennessee consumers to be on high alert for fraudulent sweepstakes and lottery offers they may receive via mail, phone, or social media.

Using the household brand name of nationally known sweepstakes companies such as Publishers Clearing House, scammers are actively trying to cheat unsuspecting Tennesseans.

The Federal Trade Commission has received more than 2,600 complaints from Tennesseans on sweepstakes and lottery scams so far in 2015.

“Tennessee consumers could wind up losing money to unscrupulous sweepstakes scam artists who promise big winnings but no payout,” said TDCI Deputy Commissioner Bill Giannini. “We urge Tennesseans to call the Division of Consumer Affairs at (615) 741-4737 or email us if you have a question about a sweepstakes offer.”

If you’re contacted by someone claiming that you’ve won a sweepstakes or a lottery, remember:

  • If you are asked to pay any amount of money in order to claim a prize, you are being scammed. Legitimate sweepstakes don’t have strings attached to claim prizes.
  • You should never wire or mail money back in order to enter or win a prize in a contest.
  • Never give your bank, credit card or personal information to anyone who contacts you claiming you’ve won a sweepstakes or a lottery.
  • If you’re contacted by someone claiming that you’ve won a prize or lottery for a contest that you didn’t enter, you’re being scammed.
  • Legitimate representatives of Publishers Clearing House do not send private messages or friend requests via Facebook.
  • Remember: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Contact TDCI’s Division of Consumer Affairs if you have any questions or to file a complaint. See the website at tn.gov/commerce for more information.