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*Consumer Alert* Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater Warns Consumers about ‘National Sweepstakes’ Scam

3/23/2012

Contact: Alexis Lambert 
(850) 413-2842
 
TALLAHASSEE—Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater today warned consumers about an emerging scam related to requiring payments to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in order to collect “lottery winnings.” A company calling themselves National Sweepstakes has contacted a senior consumer in Palm Beach County claiming to require payments to the IRS in order for the consumer to collect her $1 million-plus prize.
 
“Our department was able to keep this Floridian from giving away her life savings to these scam artists because an insurance professional acted on her instinct and made a call to our department,” CFO Atwater said. “I am proud of my department for acting quickly to avoid a much worse situation for this consumer, and I urge consumers to be on high alert for this and other such scams.”
 
Legitimate lotteries do not ask for money up front to collect winnings, and it should always be a red flag if you have been notified of winning a lottery for which you never submitted an entry.
 
Daily callers who identified themselves as Western Union employees stated that, in order to claim her winnings, the consumer needed to send $20,000, in the form of a personal check, to the IRS. Because the entire amount was not readily available in her account and had to be transferred from another source, the “company” said they would accept installment payments. The consumer then wrote personal checks in the amounts of $2,000 and $7,500 and mailed them to an address in Washington. She had also written a $20,000 check and mailed it to a Maryland address. That check was being held until funds were in place.
 
An employee from the annuity company contacted the Department of Financial Services’ Division of Consumer Services helpline because she knew something was amiss. An investigator from the Division of Insurance Fraud was at the consumer’s home within 30 minutes to explain the scam and assisted her in closing her bank account to secure her remaining savings.
 
Consumers who are contacted by this company are encouraged to contact the department’s Division of Consumer Services by calling 1-877-MY-FL-CFO (1-877-693-5236) to report the scam.
 
Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, a statewide elected official and officer of the Florida Cabinet, oversees the Department of Financial Services including the Division of Insurance Fraud.  CFO Atwater’s priorities include fighting financial fraud, abuse and waste in government, reducing government spending and regulatory burdens that chase away businesses, and providing transparency and accountability in spending.