As much as you would like to believe it, no, you didnâ€™t just win a brand new Mercedes Benz or $1 million just in time for the holidays.
That telephone call you may have received about your exciting â€świnâ€ť in a sweepstakes or lottery is just a scam, according to the Better Business Bureau, which is warning people to be on the lookout for such fraud.
Ironically, the scam artists perpetrating this current con are actually claiming to be from the BBB and theyâ€™re pointing people to a look-alike BBB website under the official sounding name: www.better-businessbureau.org. But this site contains misinformation and fraudulent claims.
The real BBB website, which is the only legitimate one you should use, is http://www.bbb.org/.
This con serves as a reminder that financial predators typically prey upon peopleâ€™s innocence, their need or their greed. So donâ€™t give con men the opportunity to take advantage of you.
Of course, with the holidays right around the corner, it sounds so very appealing to think that you may have won some fabulous, expensive prize or that you may have hit the financial jackpot.
But donâ€™t be fooled. These bogus promises of winnings â€“ which have targeted consumers nationwide and especially in Virginia and Michigan â€“ are no more real than Santa Clausâ€™s elves.
In reality, the calls appear to be coming from the 876 area code out of Jamaica.
Thatâ€™s why BBB officials remind consumers that, for starters, the BBB does not conduct sweepstakes. So no one from the BBB would ever call you saying that he/she is an â€śagentâ€ť authorized to grant you a prize.
Additionally, the BBB urges people not to fall into the trap of turning over personal or financial information over the telephone to a stranger. Thatâ€™s just setting yourself up for identity theft and financial fraud.
Instead, if you get a bogus sweepstakes call that is allegedly from the BBB, you should record the number and the conversation, then contact the BBBâ€™s Scam Portal.
In the meantime, follow these other tips from the BBB to avoid becoming the victim of a financial scam:
- Donâ€™t ever give out your credit card number, social security number, or personal data to someone you donâ€™t know
- Donâ€™t ever pay any money upfront in order to collect supposed winnings. Legitimate sweepstakes donâ€™t charge you â€śshipping and handlingâ€ť or â€śtaxesâ€ť on your win upfront.
- Donâ€™t ever wire money to strangers. If you lose your money, itâ€™s gone forever and chances are you wonâ€™t be able to track down the recipient.
As Iâ€™ve said before, itâ€™s a shame that scammers never take a break: not even for the holidays. On the contrary, during this time of year the financial hucksters and con artists seem determined to come out in full force to part people from their hard-earned dollars.
But itâ€™s up to you to turn the tables on these economic predators, and make sure you use sound financial practices—and some good old -ashioned common sense—to avoid becoming a victim of someone who intends to do you financial and personal harm.
â€śAsk The Money Coachâ€ť is a syndicated column written by personal finance expert Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, co-founder of the free financial advice blog, AskTheMoneyCoach.com. Follow Lynnette on Twitter at @themoneycoach.