Everyday people fall for one of the oldest tricks in the scammers playbook. The NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters dig deeper into one man's $5 million "Sweepstakes" and what you need to know to protect yourself.
The phone call sounded too good to be true.
Carl Kaufman of Stamford was recently told he had won $5,000,000 from American Shopper's Network sweepstakes.
"They would bring balloons and flowers and it would make a whole production of it," Kaufman said.
But there was a catch. Kaufman said the caller told him he'd have to pay $355 for a tax break on the prize.
Kaufman said he never entered a sweepstakes and he was skeptical of the caller's claims.
The Better Business Bureau said this sweepstakes approach is one of the oldest red flags in the book.
"It is illegal to ask anyone for money up front in order to claim a lottery prize or a sweepstakes," said Howard Schwartz of the BBB.
Schwartz said those who send their own money to get access to a supposed prize will likely receive a check that bounces after it gets deposited.
"Many people are embarrassed to say that they've been tricked out of hundreds of dollars, thousands of dollars and even tens of thousands of dollars," Schwartz said.
The Troubleshooters searched for American Shopper's Network online and found consumer complaints against the alleged sweepstakes. Still, the Troubleshooters tracked the alleged sweepstakes to an Ohio phone number. Someone answered and said they're aware of the negative reviews and have had to shut down their website because of hackers. They also claim to have awarded $198,000,000 to sweepstakes winners this year and they claim they arrange to take care of a big chunk of the winners' taxes.
The person claiming to represent American Shoppers Network said they are not forcing anyone to receive any prize. They said if someone is skeptical, they can make their own decision.
But the Ohio Secretary of State could not find a record for American Shoppers Network and BBB records show a company with the same name is out of business.
"There are many variations of this coming from many countries and they really don't care who they are preying upon," Schwartz said.
Kaufman said his caller made it sound real and that's why he's speaking out.
"I know there are a lot of people out there that when they hear something like that, they're gonna fall for it. Hook, line and sinker," Kaufman said.
If you receive a similar sounding call or letter, ask yourself why someone would send you money for a sweepstakes you never entered.