How do you avoid falling for mail fraud from New York? Here are some tips to use the next time you receive a letter.
·Legitimate sweepstakes don’t require you to pay or buy something to enter or improve your chances of winning, or to pay “taxes” or “shipping and handling charges” to get your prize. If you have to pay to receive your “prize,” it’s not a prize at all.
·Sponsors of legitimate contests identify themselves prominently; fraudulent promoters are more likely to downplay their identities. Legitimate promoters also provide you with an address or toll-free phone numbers so you can ask that your name be removed from their mailing list.
·Bona fide offers clearly disclose the terms and conditions of the promotion in plain English, including rules, entry procedures, and usually, the odds of winning.
·It’s highly unlikely that you’ve won a “big” prize if your notification was mailed by bulk rate. Check the postmark on the envelope or postcard. Also be suspicious of telemarketers who say you’ve won a contest you can’t remember entering.
·Fraudulent promoters might instruct you to send a check or money order by overnight delivery or courier to enter a contest or claim your “prize.” This is a favorite ploy for con artists because it lets them take your money fast, before you realize you’ve been cheated.
·Disreputable companies sometimes use a variation of an official or nationally recognized name to give you confidence in their offers. Don’t be deceived by these “look-alikes.” It’s illegal for a promoter to misrepresent an affiliation with — or an endorsement by — a government agency or other well-known organization.
·It’s important to read any written solicitation you receive carefully. Pay particularly close attention to the fine print. Remember the old adage that “the devil is in the details.”
·Agreeing to attend a sales meeting just to win an “expensive” prize is likely to subject you to a high-pressure sales pitch.
·Signing up for a sweepstakes at a public location or event, through a publication or online might subject you to unscrupulous prize promotion tactics. You also might run the risk of having your personal information sold or shared with other marketers who later deluge you with offers and advertising.
·Some contest promoters use a toll-free “800” number that directs you to dial a pay-per-call “900” number. Charges for calls to “900” numbers may be very high.
·Disclosing your checking account or credit card account number over the phone in response to a sweepstakes promotion — or for any reason other than to buy the product or service being sold — is a sure-fire way to get scammed in the future.
·Your local Better Business Bureau and your state or local consumer protection office can help you check out a sweepstakes promoter’s reputation. Be aware, however, that many questionable prize promotion companies don’t stay in one place long enough to establish a track record, and the absence of complaints doesn’t necessarily mean the offer is legitimate.
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