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Security & privacy

Clever sweepstakes scam targets your banking info

Sweepstake scams have been around almost for as long as the competitions have. If there is any situation where money can be made or stolen, you can bet your bottom dollar that scammers won’t be far behind.

AARP’s Fraud Watch Network was recently alerted to a sweepstakes scam making the rounds. The scammers have been targeting the elderly by telling them that they have won a prize. In another scam, they claim to be from the FBI. That is obviously not true, and they only want to steal your banking information.

These types of scams aren’t going to stop any time soon. In fact, a new version of a sweepstakes scam is popping up around the country right now. Read on for details on how this scam works and what to watch for.

Here’s the backstory

Con artists present themselves as representatives of AARP, Publishers Clearing House, Walmart, or any other well-known brand. With the guise of contacting sweepstake winners, the scammers attempt to get banking details from potential victims.

They claim to need your banking details to deposit the prize money or verify that the banking details are correct. Some might even insist that you can’t go through with the claim if you don’t comply.

To contact potential victims, scammers use almost every avenue open to them. Recent reports from AARP detailed that “winners” are contacted through social media, phone calls, emails, or even direct paper mail.

Why the scam is dangerous

If you unwittingly provide your account information to the scammers, you are putting yourself in danger. Scammers can use the details to steal money from you, sign you up for unwanted or fraudulent products, or steal your identity.

There is another version of the scam circulating. This involves scammers asking you to transfer a small amount of money so they can verify the account.

This should be the first indication that a scam is underway. You will never be asked to pay money to receive a legitimate prize. There have also been reports that scammers ask for gift cards or wire transfers. These are more signs of scams.

How to avoid the scam

There are several points to watch for if you suspect you are dealing with a scammer. If you need to pay anything, whether it is to confirm your account, pay for shipping, or a payout fee, it is probably a scam. Here are more preventative measures:

  • If you are cold-called and told you were automatically entered into a sweepstake, it is probably a scam.
  • A real sweepstake will never ask you to verify your banking details or to pay upfront to get the prize.
  • Don’t provide additional personal information, and don’t confirm any.
  • Never reply to a text message or an email that claims you won a prize.
  • Don’t click on links or open attachments in text messages or emails about claiming a prize.

The FTC also warns that you should never allow yourself to be pressured into giving information. Scammers can confuse you or use strong language to convey urgency — don’t fall for it.

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