PORTLAND, Ore. — Most people sign up for contests or raffles but seldom win.
So imagine the surprise if someone called you and explained, you’d won a big prize. Sounds great, right?
Scammers have figured this out. Every day, people lose thousands of dollars to prize scams.
“I don’t know why they’ve got me pegged as someone to hit, but they’re trying hard,” said Gladys Walgren of Beaverton. The 83-year old recently fell victim to a prize scam.
“It sounded more logical than the other ones. I don’t know why. It just sounded like maybe it was true. One reason was that it was Reader’s Digest,” said Walgren, who has subscribed to the magazine for years.
The caller told Walgren she won a prize of $7,899,000 from a Reader’s Digest sweepstakes. Before she could collect the cash, Walgren needed to pay a delivery fee of $3,499. The caller also left detailed voicemails about the prize.
To make things even more convincing, the scammer gave her an account, a routing number and a phone number for a bank. She called the number he provided. At the time, it all seemed to check out. In hindsight, Walgren now wonders if the bank was real or if another imposter was on the line.
Walgren wrote the check but still didn’t get her prize money. The scammer wanted more money.
“They wanted another $7,000,” said Walgren, who reached out to KGW. “That’s when I called you.”
KGW Reaches Out
KGW called the scammer on behalf of Walgren. The man who answered the phone identified himself as “Agent Slater.” He claimed to be an FBI agent working in the Baltimore field office.
“This is not a scam, sir,” explained the man on the phone. He later hung up after KGW questioned whether he really worked for the FBI.
Government agencies like the FBI will not contact the public asking for money to claim a prize.
Other warning signs of a prize scam include asking you to pay for taxes, shipping and handling fees, or processing fees to get your prize.
Avoid calls or emails that claim you need to wire money to ensure delivery of a prize.
Watch out for scammers asking you to deposit a check they’ve sent to you. Often, they’ll ask you to wire a portion of the money back. Typically, the check turns out to be fake.