COLUMBUS, OH – Scam artists, claiming to be from the BBB (The Better Business Bureau) are fraudulently using the BBB’s name in order to steal large amounts of money from victims who are told that they won the lottery.

The BBB is warning that several individuals were contacted over the phone or via email by someone claiming they were with the BBB. The victims are informed that they have just won a lottery and they must first wire money back to the scammers in order to receive their winnings.

According to the BBB, the con artists have already scammed tens of thousands of dollars from victims using this scheme.

The swindle works like this. The victim gets a call or an e-mail from someone who says they’re with the BBB congratulating them on winning millions of dollars in a lottery. All that is required to claim the prize is to wire the theives a few thousand dollars – supposedly to cover taxes or fees.

The Better Business Bureau is letting consumers know that they don’t run a lottery nor do they award prizes to consumers. Anyone who gets a call, e-mail or letter about winning the lottery should take a few precautions to protect themselves to avoid falling victim to a scam:

Make sure the story checks out. Whether the caller claims to be from the Better Business Bureau or any other organization, always confirm the facts directly with the organization itself. Use contact information that you find on your own. You can obtain this information from the organization’s Web site. Don’t use phone numbers or Web links provided by the caller. A scammer will often pretend to be from a legitimate businesses or non-profit organization. A quick call to the organization that you make on your own can help confirm the story.

Never pay money to get money. Lottery scammers make their money by convincing victims that they have to pay money up front in order to receive their winnings. Scammers use the reason that the money is required to cover costs like taxes or fees. Scammers will often prefer using a wire transfer as their payment method of choice because it is very difficult for the victim to recover any funds transfered or track money sent via wire.

Don’t fall for the phony check. Scammers will often send a check in the mail to the victim with instructions to deposit the check in their account, then wire back a portion of the funds to cover fees or taxes. The check will clear at first, but then will be discovered as a fake. This gives the victim a false sense of security and buys time for the thief to get away because the money is taken out of the victim’s account immediately and there is no way to get the funds back once sent.

The BBB recommends that if you have been contacted by someone posing as a Better Business Bureau employee to please contact your local BBB and report the incident.

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