BBB issues warning on mail scams

The Better Business Bureau serving Mississippi is warning the public to beware of letters supposedly from Publishers Clearing House which claim that they have won a grand prize drawing of $1 million. Despite how official the letters might look, the recipient is the target of a widespread scam that is seeing a sudden resurgence across the country.

Perhaps, not surprisingly, the increased prevalence of this scam comes on the heels of the actual Publishers Clearing House awarding a New Jersey woman $5,000 a week for the rest of her life. Scammers often steal their hooks from the headlines and operate in the wake of newsworthy events, such as Publishers Clearing House giving out a prize, because they know it’ll be on top of people’s minds.”

How it works
How the scam operates is that victims receive a letter supposedly from Publishers Clearing House claiming that they have won $1 million as the second-place winner of a drawing sponsored by Reader’s Digest Magazine. The letter is accompanied by a check for as much as $5,900 with instructions to call the Publishers Clearing House representative listed in the letter.

Over the phone, the victims are told that, in order to receive their prize, they must cash the check and then wire approximately $4,000 to Publishers Clearing House and then the rest of the winnings will be sent to them. The check, however, is fraudulent and any money wired to the scammers cannot be recovered.

Remember that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Online shopping
A recent Better Business Bureau survey conducted by Kelton Research finds that 6 in 10 adult online shoppers are worried about their personal information being sold or reused when completing online transactions.

The BBB offers the following advice to help make online shopping a safe and easy experience:

  • Protect your computer. Keep it updated with the latest spam filters, anti-virus and anti-spyware software and a secure firewall.
  • Use trustworthy, secure Web sites. Secure web sites have an “s” in https:// – and in the lower right corner there should be a padlock symbol.
  • Protect your personal information. Read the site’s privacy policy to understand what personal information is being requested and how it will be used. If there is no privacy policy posted, then consider that as a warning that your information may be shared with others without your permission.
  • Beware of email phishing. Legitimate businesses do not send e-mails claiming problems with an order or an account in order to lure you into revealing financial information.
  • Trust your instincts. Beware of offers that sound too good to be true.
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