BBB: Beware Of Sweepstakes Scams - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

BBB: Beware Of Sweepstakes Scams

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Imagine being told you've won a million-dollar sweepstakes, but there's a catch: you have to come up with thousands of dollars of your own money in order to claim it.

When Clairemont resident Joenellen Canepa received a letter naming her a million-dollar sweepstakes winner, she was more skeptical than excited.

"You figure it was too good to be true, and it was," she said.

Part of her prize notification was a check for almost $5,900. When the 80-year-old contacted the phone number listed on the letter, she was told to deposit the check to cover taxes and processing fees.

"Then they would let me know how much to write a check for whenever they were going to deliver the prize for whatever amount I was going to get," Joenellen said.

When she asked why they couldn't just take that amount out of her total winnings instead of her writing a personal check, "He said, 'Well, that's the way they do it,'" Joenellen said

Suspicious, Canepa's son took the check to his bank, which couldn't verify its authenticity. He then took it to Wells Fargo, the bank where the check was supposedly drawn.

"They said the branch that was on the check didn't exist,"

Most likely, the million-dollar prize didn't exist either.

"I have not seen a legitimate lottery or a legitimate sweepstakes where the recipient has to pay money out in order to get their winnings or earnings," Better Business Bureau President and CEO Sheryl Bilbrey said.

Bilbrey says a legitimate sweepstakes winner would never have to pay anything upfront to claim a prize.

"The problem we're seeing time and again with sweepstakes is that people are expected to pay money in order to get their winnings- and that's usually the big alarm bell," she said.

An alarm that Joenellen Canepa wants to share with other seniors, who are most frequently targeted.

"They figure they might have more money in the bank, or they don't have everything [mentally] where they're supposed to have it," she said "I'd just like to get it out to all the other seniors: don't do it!'

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