FTC: We’re Shutting Down an $11M Sweepstakes Scam

Millions of letters have been mailed promising huge winnings in exchange for a small fee, the Federal Trade Commission says. Seniors are often targeted.

FTC: We’re Shutting Down an $11M Sweepstakes Scam Photo (cc) by AMagill

An international mass-mailing operation promising millions of dollars to consumers has been halted by a government lawsuit, the Federal Trade Commission says.

Says an FTC press release:

According to the FTC’s complaint, Liam O. Moran, a resident of Ventura, Calif., and his companies, mass mail personalized letters to millions of consumers telling them that they have won a large cash prize, typically more than $2 million with bold, large-type statements such as “Over TWO MILLION DOLLARS in sweepstakes has been reserved for you.” Consumers are told that they can collect the prize by sending in a small fee of approximately $20 to $30. The letters often indicate that recipients are “guaranteed” to receive the prize money if they pay the fee, and they create a sense of urgency by stating that it is a limited-time offer.

The companies have sent more than 3.7 million letters since 2011, the FTC says, including to more than 150 countries this year alone. The operation has raked in more than $11 million since 2009, the FTC says. Most victims are seniors.

Confusing language on the back of mailed letters contradicts the guaranteed winnings claim on the front, the FTC says. The fine print explains the fee only provides access to a list of available sweepstakes. Authorities say it’s probably a clumsy attempt at a legal defense.

A judge agreed to the FTC’s request to temporarily stop the defendants’ activities and freeze the operation’s assets while the government pursues the case.

Sweepstakes scams are one of the top 10 consumer complaints to the FTC. Learn how to avoid those and others in the video below.

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