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State police warn of sweepstakes scams

April 11, 2011

Maryland State Police are warning of sweepstakes scams in which people are being asked to mail money to an address to “cover the taxes” to collect winnings.

People might be receiving phone calls, emails and U.S. mail to indicate they are the winner of a Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes or other form of lottery, state police said.

But people receiving these notices should use caution, state police from the Hagerstown barrack said in a news release issued Monday.

Over the past several months, state police investigators have received several complaints from unsuspecting people falling prey to announcements about winnings, state police said.

State police are providing the public with tips that can be used to protect themselves from sweepstakes scams.

If someone receives notice that they have won a Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes, they can verify the legitimacy of the notice by contacting the Better Business Bureau, state police said.

Officials with the Better Business Bureau should be able to verify if a sweepstakes winning notification letter is legitimate, state police said.

According to Publishers Clearing House officials, winning entrants of the contest must be found and must sign an affidavit of eligibility within 30 days of being chosen the winner, state police said.

Although victims have been asked to send money for winnings, state police are reminding people that the real Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes are “always free.”

Winners would have to pay only the Internal Revenue Service directly, state police said.

State police said the Better Business Bureau website at www.bbb.org can be used to check for reports on unfamiliar companies. Suspicious letters can be submitted to the U.S. Postal Service for review, and suspicious calls can be reported to the National Fraud Center or by calling the Publishers Clearing House customer service line at 800-645-9242. The website for the National Fraud Center is www.fraud.org.

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