Andy's Got Your Back on a sweepstakes swindle - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Andy's Got Your Back on a sweepstakes swindle

(WMC TV) - I keep reporting on sweepstakes scams because U.S. postal inspectors continue to investigate cases in which consumers fell for those scams.

It might help if you remember what happened to 76-year-old 'Gertrude.' We're protecting her identity.

She was thrilled when she got a letter saying, "Dear won $1 million from the Publishers Clearing House."

"It looked so real," she said.

Inside the envelope, she found a check for more than $12,000. 

"I had to supposedly deposit that check and then ask for $8,000 in money orders to pay fees and a small tax," she said.

Those are the common signs of a sweepstakes scam. One, it came unsolicited. Two, it included a check, which is always counterfeit. Three, it included a request for transferring money after the check is deposited. The check bounces, the account's corrupted -- and the consumer's real money is gone.

That's exactly what happened to 'Gertrude.'

She bought eight $1,000 money orders and took them to the post office to mail them and claim her million-dollar prize.

A postal clerk immediately alerted postal inspectors. 

"I contacted the victim to find out exactly why she was sending $8,000 in money orders to an individual she did not know," said U.S. Postal Inspector Cheryl Swyers.

Too late.

'Gertrude's" money orders were sent. The check she deposited -- bounced. Her account:  cleaned out.

"It's really sad when you don't know where that money has gone," she said.

Just because someone sends you something doesn't mean it's real. With sweepstakes offers, simply remember this:  if it is unsolicited -- you didn't enter it or initiate contact -- and it asks you to transfer fees or pay anything in order to collect your "winnings," then it is a scam.

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