Consumer Alert: Beware of sweepstakes scams

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - You've seen the ads. A man shows up at your door with a big check and announces you've won the Publisher's Clearing House sweepstakes. Imagine one man's delight when he got a letter saying he won.

"It said it was from Publisher's Clearing House and it showed a sample check for $1.5 million dollars," the victim says.

The victim is still embarrassed he was lured into a scam that cost him hundreds of dollars. When he received the letter, he contacted the name and number. He was told he needed to pay thousands of dollars in taxes to collect the winnings. The victim told them he didn't have any money.

"They have a solution for him. What they describe as prior winners can sponsor him and provide payment to meet the necessary payments to get the prize," says retired U.S. Postal Inspector Larry Dodson.

The victim unknowingly turned into a middle man for con artists. He was receiving checks from other people who believed they were paying off taxes on their jackpot. He then converted them to cash and spent hundreds of dollars sending packages overnight to Canada. After re-shipping almost $119,000, the victim got a call from Canadian police. They had intercepted one of the packages.

"Why are you sending this to Canada? I said to to pay taxes to win my Publisher's Clearing House winnings. They said we don't collect taxes unless you are a Canadian citizen. That kind of threw me. Then all of a sudden when I tried to call these people, the numbers were all disconnected. That's when I knew I had been taken. I was totally destroyed," says the victim.

"Publishers Clearing House immediately it was something that was recognizable to him, he heard it before. And you think well, finally I've won something. I've got the American Dream that I've seen on TV before. So he was eager to do whatever was necessary to collect that prize," says Dodson.

The victim says he learned a valuable lesson.

"I should have called Publishers Clearing House to see if this exists. Had I done that, none of this would have probably happened. I have no one to blame but myself."

Postal inspectors want to remind consumers that no legitimate lottery or so-called contest will ever ask for fees or taxes to be paid upfront.

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