Thursday, March 15, 2012
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Fraud alerts: Sweepstakes scam in Springfield and consulting scam in Bloomington

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[March 15, 2012]  OAK PARK -- The following fraud-related alerts were released by AgeOptions, the Area Agency on Aging of Suburban Cook County. The alerts are distributed by the Illinois Senior Medicare Patrol, known as the SMP program.


Sweepstakes Scam in Springfield

Our SMP partners in Springfield notified us this week of a fake Publishers Clearinghouse sweepstakes scam. An older Springfield woman received a phone call from someone telling her that she won the Publisher's Clearinghouse sweepstakes, but that she needs to pay taxes on her winnings before she receives them. The caller instructed the woman to go to Wal-Mart and purchase a Green Dot card worth $500,

then call the scammer back to give them the number on the card.

Our tip here is simple – you should never have to pay any money up front to claim any kind of ‘winnings.' Offers of a prize after a payment are always scams – the scammer in this case will be long gone once they obtain the number from the Green Dot card and spend the money.

Consulting Scam in Bloomington

Our SMP partners in Bloomington received a letter this week offering "consulting" services in which a company will help "save money" on services like phone, internet, and television services. The letter uses religious rhetoric and does not give a clear description of what the company does, it gives personal contact information (emails and cell phones) instead of company information, and the company is not listed on the Better Business Bureau's website at all. This is clearly a scam. We recommend that consumers take the following steps before doing business with someone:

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1) Do not accept business from people who ‘cold call' or visit door-to-door. Unfortunately, so many scammers use these methods that our advice must be to ‘just say no' to anyone who makes unsolicited phone calls or door-to-door visits.

2) For businesses that require specific licensure, check with the licensing board or entity to obtain a list of licensed providers in your area.

3) Check with the Illinois Attorney General's Office and the Better Business Bureau to verify that a company is registered and/or properly licensed before doing business with them, and to see if there are any pending complaints against the business.

[Text copied from Illinois SMP file received from AgeOptions]

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