FTC Warns Against Scammers Pretending To Be From The FTC

While the Federal Trade Commission is working to protect American consumers from scam artists, badvertisers, robocallers, and other unseemly types, the agency is not handing out $250,000 sweepstakes prizes.

Yet scammers claiming to be from the FTC are contacting consumers, telling them they have won some sort of big cash prize. To receive your winnings, you only need to pay taxes and insurance, in the form of a wire transfer for anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000.

It’s a classic scam. The twist here is that the scammers are attempting to use the name of the same people charged with bringing sweepstakes scammers down.

“The caller might suggest that the FTC is supervising the giveaway,” writes the agency — or at least we believe it was the agency. “He or she might even use the name of a real FTC employee. Your Caller ID might display the Federal Trade Commission’s name or a Washington, DC area code. Don’t be surprised if you receive repeated calls and follow-up faxes.

“No matter how convincing the impersonation, never send money to claim a prize. No FTC employee will ever call to ask you to send money. Legitimate sweepstakes companies won’t either.”

Here are the FTC’s tips for avoiding any sweepstakes scams:
Don’t pay to collect sweepstakes winnings. If you have to pay to collect your winnings, you haven’t won. Legitimate sweepstakes don’t require you to pay “insurance,” “taxes,” or “shipping and handling charges” to collect your prize.

Hold on to your money. Scammers pressure people to wire money through commercial money transfer companies like Western Union because wiring money is the same as sending cash. If you discover you’ve been scammed, the money’s gone, and there’s very little chance of recovery. Don’t send a check or money order by overnight delivery or courier, either. Con artists recommend these services so they can get your money before you realize you’ve been cheated.

Look-alikes aren’t the real thing. It’s illegal for any promoter to lie about an affiliation with — or an endorsement by — a government agency or any other well-known organization. Disreputable companies sometimes use a variation of an official or nationally recognized name to try to confuse you and give you confidence in their offers. Insurance companies, including Lloyd’s of London, do not insure delivery of sweepstakes winnings.

Phone numbers can deceive. Some con artists call using Internet technology that allows them to disguise their area code: although it may look like they’re calling from Washington, DC, or your local area, they could be calling from anywhere in the world.

File a complaint with the FTC. If you receive a call from someone who claims to be a representative of the government trying to arrange for you to collect supposed sweepstakes winnings, file a complaint at ftc.gov or call 1-877-FTC-HELP.

The FTC will get the most out of your complaint if you include the date and time of the call, the name or phone number of the organization that called you, the FTC “employee” name that was used, the prize amount, the amount of money requested, the payment method, and any other details.

One tip the FTC doesn’t offer about sussing out pretenders, but which we learned from years of watching bad TV — if someone you trust is suddenly sporting a goatee, it’s an impostor; possibly an evil twin and/or cyborg clone.


Edit Your Comment

  1. giax says:

    How could anyone fall for that? FTC giving out money as sweepstakes?
    What next? IRS sweepstakes? TSA sweepstakes & free TSA breast scan?

  2. TrustAvidity says:

    I’d tell them to send me the money and bill me for the taxes/insurance so I can use the prize money to pay it. See how well that goes over with them.

  3. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    “The FTC will get the most out of your complaint if you include the date and time of the call, the name or phone number of the organization that called you”

    Yes, because when your caller ID says SPOKANE WA and the number is spoofed, that’s ever so very helpful. I’ve been on the DNC list since it started. I still get several calls a day from weird phone numbers, and rarely is there a message. When I call the numbers back, either they’re disconnected or no longer in service, or the voice mailbox is full. Once I got a message that said “you have been called for telemarketing purposes”. Obviously, they hadn’t checked the DNC list.

    When the FTC makes spoofed numbers illegal, and starts sending these asshats to prison, then I’ll believe they’re actually doing something about this. I stopped filing complaints with them years ago because the calls just don’t stop. They just appear from different faked numbers.

    • Not Given says:

      Spoofed numbers are illegal. How do you find the real number if their equipment isn’t transmitting it?

    • pattymc says:

      I still report them but share your pain. At one point I suggested the DNC people simply monitor 1800notes and whocalled us. Those sites are always up to date with these bogus calls. I have only received one legitimate bad call in several years and that was few months ago when All State called me. I have never done business with them and told the woman I was on the list and that she could get in big trouble for violating it. She fell over herself apologizing. The other half dozen or so calls I get every week are obviously scams as scammers are the only ‘businesses’ that call nowadays.

  4. Actionable Mango says:

    How do we know this warning itself isn’t from scamsters pretending to be the FTC so that the scamsters can get all the free money for themselves???

  5. wade says:

    This sounds just like that “IRS” scammer who keeps sending me letters saying that if I don’t send them money, they’ll garnish my wages. Nothing but con artistry and scare tactics.