How to Report Sweepstakes Scams to the Authorities
How to Stop Scammers by Reporting Them
It's no fun to realize you're being targeted by scammers. Whether you managed to recognize and avoid the scam or not, you might feel unsettled, angry, or embarrassed. So what do you do? Reporting sweepstakes scammers and identity thieves to the authorities is your first step toward shutting them down.
Why Report Sweepstakes Scams?
Knowing the warning signs of sweepstakes scams can help you protect yourself and your money. But scammers are constantly developing new ways to trick people.
Knowing the tactics scammers are using right now helps the authorities act against them effectively. And spreading the word can help potential victims know what they need to look out for.
Plus, shouldn't scammers pay for their crimes? Staying quiet helps con artists get away with their crimes
If you've been the victim or attempted victim of sweepstakes fraud, reporting the scam to the proper authorities can help catch the criminals before they can prey on another innocent victim.
If you've lost money through sweepstakes fraud, it might be difficult to recover. That doesn't mean that the authorities won't try, however. Plus, making a report can help you prevent further losses.
Here are some of the official agencies that work to stop sweepstakes scams, and how to contact them:
Your Local Police
While you won't want to report every scam email, if you lost money or your identity has been stolen, your first call should be to your local police.
Filing a report with your local police can help you get the information you need to attempt to reclaim lost money. If you are a victim of identity theft, a police report can also help absolve you of responsibility for charges you didn't make.
The police can assist you in contacting other authorities who are investigating similar crimes.
You can make a report in person or by telephone. Use your local phone directory to find a non-emergency number to call to report your scam.
If you want to know what you need to do before you turn to the police, Lifelock has an interesting article about how to file a police report after a scam.
The Federal Trade Commission
The Federal Trade Commission collects information about current scams and frauds. It then directs that information to law enforcement officials.
You can use this form to report unwanted telemarketing contacts, sweepstakes scam phone calls, spam, and similar problems.
Their website can also help you report ID theft, apply for refunds from unauthorized purchases, and more.
IdentityTheft.gov is the branch of the FTC that specifically deals with identity theft. Their website will walk you through every step of reporting theft. They'll help you come up with a customized recovery plan and tell you what you need to do to put it into place.
You'll find sample letters, contact information for credit bureaus, and more.
They also have a wealth of information about how to protect yourself against identity theft by recognizing and avoiding common scams.
If you are a citizen of the United States and you have received a scam letter in the mail, or if you are a resident of another country who has received a fraudulent letter or a fake check scam that originated in the U.S., you can report the scam to the United States Postal Service.
Start your scam report by downloading and returning this mail fraud complaint form.
You can report mail fraud online, by telephone, or in person. For help finding more information, visit the USPS Customer Service website.
If your sweepstakes scam took place online, such as via an email or a website, you can report it to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).
The IC3 is an inter-agency website run by the National White Collar Crime Center and the FBI. They have an online form that makes reporting quick and painless.
Once you 've made your report, the IC3 will process it and direct it to the proper legal organization.
You're eligible to make a complaint to IC3 if either the victim or the scammer was located in the United States.
The Consumer Protection Offices of your state's Attorney General have the power to track and investigate scam claims. They may also be able to help you if you don't receive a prize that you were promised or if you feel that a contest is cheating with its prize drawings.
If you've fallen prey to a scam, call your Attorney General's office to see which services they can offer to help.
Your Local Media
If there's a scam circulating in your area, your local media is a good resource. Local newspapers or news stations may be able to help you pursue your scammers, receive restitution, and warn others so that they won't become victims as well.
Some news stations even have dedicated consumer advocates, like "ABC 15 in Arizona's" Let Joe Know.
Call or Google your local news stations to see what kinds of services are available in your area.
If your scam involves a Canadian company or if you're a Canadian citizen, you can report the scammers to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
You can report any fraud, whether you've lost money or not, either online or by telephone.
You can also find more information about protecting yourself from fraud, important steps to take after you've been targeted, and more.
Publishers Clearing House's Abuse Team
Publishers Clearing House's good name is often misused in sweepstakes scams. PCH works closely with legal authorities to help stop scams that claim to come from Publishers Clearing House, and reporting the scam to them helps them take more effective action.
Obviously, you don't want to report legitimate prize wins. If you're not sure whether you've received a scam or a legitimate prize notification, read Did I Really Win from PCH?
If you've received an email, a bulk letter, or a phone call saying that you've won from PCH, you can send a report to firstname.lastname@example.org or use one of these other ways to contact PCH.
Together, We Can Stop Sweepstakes Scams
Taking a few minutes of your time to report a sweepstakes scam, attempted ID theft, or other cyber crime can help authorities track crime, protect potential victims, and nab criminals. The people who commit scams and fraud are difficult to pin down, and your report might be just what the authorities need to make an arrest.