Ken Paxton
Consumer Protection

Scam Artists Posing as Federal Trade Commission Officials Targeting Texans in Sweepstakes Scam

AUSTIN – Texans should be aware of a new telemarketing sweepstakes scam that is targeting Texas families. According to recent reports, scam artists are posing as Federal Trade Commission (FTC) employees in order to lead credence to the scam and tell Texans they have won hundreds of thousands of dollars in sweepstakes prizes. To receive the prize, call recipients are told they must pay several thousand dollars for insurance before they can receive a certified check for the prize.

The scammers make the initial contact by telephone and follow up with a letter featuring a fraudulent FTC logo that provides recipients with instructions for claiming their prize. The letter attempts to convince recipients that the FTC is contacting them because a sweepstakes company holding their prize was unable to locate them. In an effort to deceive letter recipients into believing the letters were legitimately sent by a federal agency, it lists a Washington, D.C. area phone number for customers to call. Calls to that phone number are re-directed to an unknown area, where the person on the other end of the phone then demands payment from the callers for insurance to receive their prize. In scams of this sort, the scammers’ goal is to get the callers’ “insurance” money.

The FTC never collects money from consumers and its employees have no involvement with delivering sweepstakes prizes. Additionally, Texans should be aware that they do not need to buy anything in order to enter a sweepstakes. In fact, it is illegal for companies holding sweepstakes to charge fees.

Texans who receive a call from someone claiming to be a representative of the Federal Trade Commission or any other government organization purportedly trying to deliver sweepstakes winnings should contact the Texas Attorney General’s Office at (800) 252-8011 or the Federal Trade Commission at (877) FTC-HELP.

ABOUT CONSUMER ALERTS - The Office of the Attorney General accepts consumer complaints about businesses. When a pattern of complaints warrants intervention, the Attorney General can file a civil lawsuit under consumer protection statutes, sometimes with the result that a company is required to pay restitution to consumers -- see our Major Lawsuits page. However, when a consumer is swindled by a con artist, filing a complaint cannot help. Civil litigation can sometimes put a very unscrupulous business out of action, but often cannot produce restitution.

Individual con artists generally fall under the jurisdiction of a criminal prosecutor -- in Texas, this is the district or county attorney. But even when they are charged and convicted, these individuals usually have spent the money as fast as they have stolen it. A person who is the victim of fraud should report the incident to the police or sheriff. But by far the best thing is for consumers to be aware of fraud, so they are not swindled in the first place. For this reason, the Office of the Attorney General posts these Consumer Alerts about possible scams and schemes that come to our attention through citizen contacts to our office or other sources.