If they ask you to send money, itís a scam

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 28, 2011

By Shelley Smith
Congratulations! Youíve won hundreds of thousands of dollars for no reason!
Sweepstake scams continue to be some of the most well-known scams across North Carolina, yet residents still fall victim.
ěYouíll get a letter or a telephone call, or fax or email, telling you you have won,î N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper said. ěMany people are in difficult financial straits these days, and (the news) can make them feel elated and happy.î
The letter says that youíve won a large amount of money. A ěvery official-looking checkî representing an up-front payment comes with the letter, Cooper said. But before the recipient receives the winnings, the letter says, he or she must first pay taxes on the lottery or sweepstakes winnings, deposit the check, and wire the money to the company.
Several days later, the checks bounce.
ěI know that people want to win lotteries and sweepstakes, but itís illegal to take money up front for winning lotteries and sweepstakes,î Cooper said. ěIf theyíre asking you to send money, you should know itís a scam.î
And several Rowan County residents contacted the Salisbury Post after receiving letters and checks, or calls to their homes, saying the won a sweepstakes or contest, but they were able to recognize the winnings were just scams.
James Stirewalt, 84, of Salisbury, received a phone call from a stranger claiming he had won $625,000 after mailing in a form.
ěI was to tell them what morning they could deliver the check that I had won, and they would hand deliver the check, which is written on Bank of America, and they asked if they could meet and bring the check to me tomorrow morning,î Stirewalt said.
The caller said Stirewalt had to pay a premium of $1,200 before the check could be delivered.
ěI said, ëNo, I wonít send that. This is some kind of gimmick,í î Stirewalt said. ěThey clicked right then; they hung up.î
Stirewalt received another call about the winnings the next day, and he asked the caller if he could pay the $1,200 premium when they delivered the check.
ěAnd he said, ëHold on just a minute, let me see,í and hung up,î Stirewalt said.
The person called again the next day with the same story, and again a few days later.
ěI remember each one of them reminding me that they know there are a number of publishing houses that offer money for cash, for filling out forms,î Stirewalt said. ěAnd this was to make sure that I understand that this is all legal.
ěBut Iím not convinced.î

Other scam stories from Rowan County residents:
Robert Cockerl received a letter saying he was a winner in an international sweepstakes. It included an ěofficial-lookingî check from SunTrust Bank, he said. According to the notice, he had won $125,000, but needed to pay $2,875 in taxes, directly through Western Union.
Cockerl said he knew it was a scam but decided to call his ěclaim agent.î He and his wife asked the man many questions ó so many the man hung up on them. So they called back several more times, and the man continued to hang up.
ěIt got to the point that they cursed us out and told us not to call back again,î Cockerl said. ěHe said they were going to kill us, burn our house down.î
Janice Lentz got a call from someone who said she had won $2.5 million and a brand new 2010 Mercedes Benz.
ěI said,íNow wait a minute, I donít believe this. This is a scam,í î she said. ěHe said, ëOh no, I promise you itís not a scam.í î
She kept the man on the phone for 45 minutes, making him believe she was going to go to Western Union and wire some money, and then she hung up.
ěAnd he called back again, and I just hung up the phone again,î Lentz said. ěHe really thought I was falling for it.î
Lentz said the man swore to her over and over that he was not lying and told her several times, ěI guarantee that it will change your life.î
ěIím afraid some people will fall for that,î she said.
Tips from the FBI
The FBIís Internet Crime Complaint Center offers these tips about unsolicited emails, and clicking on unfamiliar links:
Adjust the privacy settings on social networking sites you frequent to make it more difficult for people you know and do not know to post content to a page. Even a ěfriendî can unknowingly pass on multimedia thatís actually malicious software.
Do not agree to download software to view videos. These applications can infect your computer.
Read emails you receive carefully. Fraudulent messages often feature misspellings, poor grammar and nonstandard English.
Another tip is to always check a companyís website or Better Business Bureau rating before giving any information.