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MADISON – A unique phone scam is targeting Wisconsin consumers, with callers telling consumers that they are eligible for unclaimed Powerball prizes and asking them to pick some numbers. Later, the callers contact the consumers again claiming that they won a third or fourth prize for millions of dollars and an automobile. A phony promise of prize winnings is a common scam. What sets these calls apart from traditional scams, however, is that these scammers are not asking for money to cover “taxes” or “fees” on the fictional prizes or for personally identifying information like Social Security numbers. Rather, they seem to be “casing” the consumers for future scams, asking them general financial questions about their investments and the values of their homes.
The Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR) runs the state’s lottery. DOR is aware of these calls and notes that the only time you would receive a call from the Lottery is if you have entered and won a Lottery “mail in” drawing.
Wisconsin residents have contacted the Consumer Information Hotline at the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) looking for help in verifying the legitimacy of these calls. Because these Powerball calls have not included the usual scam red flags of requests for money, sensitive personal data or bank or credit account numbers, it has been a challenge for the hotline staff to persuade consumers that the calls are fraudulent.
Even if the caller does not ask for personally identifying information in these initial contacts, they are still gathering data that allows them to build a profile on the consumer that they can use for future scams. If a consumer freely and eagerly answers the scammer’s questions, that scammer now has two important pieces of information: the overall wealth of the consumer and a sense that the consumer will be an easy and receptive target for future scams. These profiles are valuable for scammers and may be sold and shared among these criminals.
For additional information or to file a complaint, visit the Consumer Protection Bureau at datcp.wisconsin.gov, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Consumer Information Hotline toll-free at 1-800-422-7128. You can also connect via Facebook at www.facebook.com/wiconsumer.