Sweepstake Scammers Impersonate FTC

Fraudsters frequently pretend to be from official or official-sounding organizations and companies to perpetuate their scams, but one group has kicked the chutzpah level up to a whole new level.

They’re running a sweepstakes scam by pretending to be real people from the FTC, one the very organizations charged with stopping them.

Red Tape Chronicles reports:

In one case, a 67-year-old building inspector from Washington state named Ralph (he requested that his last name not be used) sent $1,300 to a criminal who identified himself as FTC Secretary Donald Clark from the “fraud division.” The imposter said the agency was overseeing a sweepstakes, and the money was needed to pay for insurance on delivery of a $500,000 prize that Ralph had won.

To add to the air of legitimacy, the imposter left a call-back number in Washington D.C.’s 202 area code.

In similar cases, caller ID indicated the call had originated from the Federal Trade Commission, Broder said. The criminals used Internet-based telephone services to perform the caller ID trick, she said.

When Ralph called the number supplied to him, an answering machine message announced that the caller has reached the FTC.

Ballsy. Also, a really good way by the scammers to help the agency decide out of all the cases that come across its desk, which one to make a top priority.

Wicked new wrinkle: Scammers impersonate FTC officials [Red Tape Chronicles] (Photos: afagen, Tim Kiser)

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  1. wickedpixel says:

    I received a most excellent nigerian scam email yesterday from the “ICPC NIGERIA – Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission / United Nations Approved Anti-fraud Unit” approving my settlement as reparations for moneys lost to nigerian scam emails.

  2. scoosdad says:

    But are they taking this stuff seriously? Somehow I doubt it from this (this was my screen capture):

  3. dohtem says:

    Ouch. A few elderly folks in the article.

    “I’m really angry at myself for falling for it,” she said. “I don’t really have enough to get by to begin with, so this really hurt.”

    Sigh. I don’t want to be disemvowelled so I’ll shut up.

  4. rekoil says:

    Ah, the sweepstakes scammers.

    Back In The Day, my first job out of college was managing print production for a company that published coupon books – you know, the ones that banks and other retailers would like to hand out as collateral when you opened an account/bought a car/etc.

    Problem was, all of our customers were companies that had the word “Promotions” or “Marketing” at the end of their names. They would request that the custom books we printed for them had a specific total value of the coupons – most of which came from the handful of “save $500 off a cruise/RV rental/vacation package” coupons in the book, and took quite a bit of coupon-juggling to get to the exact number they needed.

    Turned out, our customers, who were paying around 50 cents per book in bulk, were using these as “prizes” which their victims, er, clients would pay a substantial “claim fee” to obtain. The fact that the prize was in coupons, not cash, was buried in 6-point fine print, which I’m presuming none of the recipients could read without a magnifying glass to begin with. Hence the exact value of coupon offers needed.

    And more than once, I was told to permanently delete (as in, using Norton’s secure delete utility, which took all day to run at the time) all copies of work being done for particular clients who were just raided by the local postal inspectors.

    Good news is, it’s so long ago that I don’t have to put it on my resume anymore…

  5. UltimateOutsider says:

    I would really like to see legislation that made caller ID spoofing illegal (if it’s not illegal already?). If you want to opt out of displaying any information for privacy, that’s fine, but spoofing serves nothing other than a fraudulent purpose.

  6. SatisfriedCrustomer says:

    Can’t there be a GOOD scammer – one that targets elderly people in order to teach them a lesson, but then gives them their money back?

    In fact, if such a scammer exists, people with elderly parents who fall for such things could HIRE such a scammer for their parent to put all their money into, and keep them occupied.

    But, it would really be like a bank account, and the money wouldn’t be lost. There would be a fee for this service, but a reasonable one.

    (Before you say it, yes, eventually real scammers would impersonate these teach-you-a-lesson scammers, but with Consumerist and other consumer websites the real ones could be told from the phonies)

  7. Allen Harkleroad says:

    I’ve gotten at least one of these a while back (trashed it of course). Yesterday I got a Nigerian 411 scam email that was purportedly form the head guy at the FBI. Sheesh the things these idiots will do to scam money.

  8. katia802 says:

    My sister and I spend quite a bit of time in my parent’s e mail cleaning out the nigerian scams, raffle and lottery scams, phishing scams, etc. My dad has never seen a pop up he didn’t want to click. I’m guessing most of the elderly that get caught by this don’t have anyone to help them with it.

  9. dohtem says:

    @pecan 3.14159265: Oh, c’mon! Cage and Travolta wielding 2 pistols each in Face/Off with a little bit of gun kata thrown in?

    That, young lady, is quality acting. Do not dispute this. I am right, you are wrong :)

    (ok really, he sucks but I’m a fan)

  10. Difdi says:

    @StanTheManDean: Kinda like Free Credit Report (.com)

  11. StanTheManDean says:

    @Difdi:

    Yep. Same intentional naming deception.

  12. pegr says:

    @Difdi:

    I call shenanigans of Difdi! Officer Barbrady?

    (or, in other words, um, no.)