July 12, 2017

Wise Giving Wednesday: Charity Sweepstakes Scam

You receive a call stating that you’ve won $450,000 in a charity sweepstakes!  What, too good to be true you say?  Well, the caller says she is with a government agency in Washington DC, your phone shows they are using a Washington DC number with a 202 area code, and they reference the name of a well-known, trusted charity: Make-A-Wish Foundation. All you need to do is provide banking information (or a wire transfer) to send them a few thousand dollars to cover taxes and insurance. Well, welcome to the latest charity scam courtesy of a crafty con that is spreading across the U.S. as you read this.

The truth is the Make-A-Wish Foundation of America (a BBB Accredited Charity) does not engage in any sweepstakes fundraising and the FTC or any other government agency would not be involved in contacting sweepstakes participants to inform them about their winnings and/or asking to collect funds to cover taxes or some other imagined fee.  The FTC issued a fraud alert about this scam last week. Make-A-Wish posted their own alert and informs us the callers mix fact with fiction by using their name, may reference their actual Phoenix national office address and will have quick confident answers to almost any question thrown at them.

Here are some charity sweepstakes tips to keep in mind to avoid being taken:

  1. If a caller says you have to “pay” for a prize, hang up.  If you truly participated and won a sweepstakes, you will never have to send any type of payment to get your winnings.
  2. Government agencies won’t call you about sweepstakes.  Scammers use this ruse to gain your trust and/or to make their tax or fees claim sound more official.
  3. Watch out for unauthorized use of a real charity name.  The caller may use the name of a nationally recognized charity, like Make-A-Wish Foundation, to help build credibility, they may even offer to “connect” you with the sweepstakes office of that charity.  That’s another false-trust builder. If you truly want to connect with the charity, go to their official website for details. 
  4. Don’t succumb to pressure to do as they say. Sometimes the longer you stay on the call, the more opportunities you will be providing scammers to push the right buttons to convince you.
  5. Report suspected scams to government authorities and the BBB. If you believe you have been the victim of a scam, contact the office of the attorney general in your state, report it to the FTC at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov, and post your concerns to BBB Scam Tracker so that other members of the public will be informed about it.

As part of our Building Trust Video series, we are pleased to provide a video that features Shawn Sweeney, Sr., Communications Director at the Jane Goodall Institute for Wildlife, Research, Education and Conservation (a BBB Accredited Charity).  The Jane Goodall Institute works to promote understanding and protection of great apes and their habitat on the legacy of Dr. Jane Goodall, its founder, and to inspire individual action by young people to help animals and to protect the environment.

Finally, remember to let us know by going to https://www.give.org/ask-us-about-a-charity1/ if you are  interested in seeing a report on a charity not on the list and we will do our best to produce one.  

H. Art Taylor, President & CEO
BBB Wise Giving Alliance