The Nebraska Attorney General last week warned consumers about a fraudulent sweepstakes that appears to be sponsored by major companies including Virgin Mobile USA and McDonald’s.
AG Jon Bruning called the mailing “a new type of sweepstakes fraud that lists false sponsorships to deceive consumers into participating.”
In addition to McDonald’s and Virgin Mobile, the notices, which state that consumers have won tens of thousands of dollars, also appeared to be sponsored by Wal-Mart, Pizza Hut, Sears, Budget Rent-A-Car and Gap, the AG said.
However, an inquiry by the AG’s consumer protection division found that these businesses were not involved in the promotion, Bruning said.
The letter tells consumers that they must pay a “clearance fee” to receive the prize because the award money is bonded. A check from one of the “sponsors” is enclosed in the letter to cover the costs of the clearance fee. The consumer is instructed to deposit the check and send the money back to the sweepstakes organizers.
“The check is fraudulent, and consumers lose the money they send,” Bruning said in a statement.
One “sponsor” learned that checks for up to $4,720 were being written from one of its bank accounts and immediately closed it, Bruning said.
“If it seems too good to be true, it probably is,” he said. “Nebraskans work too hard for their money to lose it in a scam. Being skeptical and researching an opportunity is the best way to avoid falling victim.”