(COLUMBUS, Ohio)—Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today warned Ohioans to be on the lookout for sweepstakes scams. In 2011, the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section logged nearly 1,500 complaints about sweepstakes and prizes that reportedly cost Ohioans about $2 million in losses.
“In a typical sweepstakes scam, consumers receive a letter or call saying they’ve won an international lottery,” DeWine said. “In order to collect the winnings, however, they must send money to cover processing fees or taxes. In reality, they haven’t won a prize, and any money they send will be lost.”
The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section fields tens of thousands of complaints a year. In 2011, the section received more than 31,000 complaints. While many complaints involved disputes between consumers and businesses, others involved potential scams.
For example, consumers reported 1,461 sweepstakes and prize complaints in 2011. Most complaints in that category were reports of potential scams.
“We’re pushing for stronger tools to go after these scammers,” DeWine said. “Sweepstakes and lottery scams have been around for decades, and they continue to work. We’re taking a new approach to dealing with scams – working with law enforcement to bring criminal action against the perpetrators.”
In 2011, Attorney General DeWine created the Economic Crimes Division to identify criminal conduct in consumer fraud cases and to assist Ohio’s prosecuting attorneys in holding scammers criminally accountable for their actions. In 2011, the division investigated dozens of cases that led to nine people being charged with felony-level crimes.
“Sweepstakes and Prizes” was the eighth most common complaint category reported to the Consumer Protection Section in 2011.
The 2011 top ten consumer complaint categories are:
- Motorized Vehicles
- Collections, Credit Reporting, or Financial Services
- Internet or Phone
- Health and Beauty
- Household Goods or Property Improvement
- Professional Services
- Shopping, Food, or Beverages
- Sweepstakes or Prizes
Attorney General DeWine encourages consumers to report potential scams or unfair business practices to his office at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or 800-282-0515.
Lisa Hackley: 614-466-3840
Eve Mueller: 614-466-3840