Issue#618: September 16, 2015
A Message from Chief Knight

Sweepstakes Fools Victims with Fake Check

Some cons just never get old (for scammers, that is). Con artists are always impersonating Publisher's Clearing House, hoping that the lure of a sweepstakes win is too tempting to resist. BBB has learned of a new twist on this classic ploy, combining what's known as a "sweepstakes scam" with an "over-payment scam."
How the Scam Works:
You receive a letter in the mail informing you that you've won the Publisher's Clearing House (PCH) Sweepstakes. It says that PCH has even included a check to cover the taxes on your winnings. All you have to do is deposit the check in your account and wire or use a prepaid debit card to send the "taxes" to a third party. Then it claims Publishers Clearing House can release your winnings.
Sound too good to be true? That's because it is. This scam has nothing to do with Publishers Clearing House. If you deposit the check, and transfer the "tax" money, you will end up owing the bank. Even though the money seems to immediately appear in your account, it takes the bank a few days to completely clear the check. In cases where the check is fake, you are responsible for any money lost.


Tips to Protect Yourself From a Sweepstakes Scam:

Lottery and sweepstakes scams are common. Here are tips to avoid them:

  • Don't pay up to claim your prize. You should never have to pay money or buy products in order to receive a prize. Be especially wary of requests to wire money or use a prepaid debit card.

  • Be wary of email announcements. Major sweepstakes organizations sometimes email about smaller prizes, but for big winners they usually show up at your house with a big check (and a camera crew).

  • You can't win a contest you didn't enter. You need to buy a ticket or complete an application to participate in a contest or lottery. Be very careful if you've been selected as a winner for a contest you never entered.

  • Verify -- but not by using a source scammers give you. Check if an offer is real, but don't call the phone number in the email or website you suspect may be a scam. If it is a con, chances are the person on the other line will be involved, too.

‘Companion’ Safety App Helps You ‘Never Walk Home Alone’

A new app gaining steam is quickly garnering worldwide attention for a personal safety feature allowing friends to virtually walk you home at night.

The 'Companion' app was created by five University of Michigan students after they worried about walking alone late at night. You just type in your destination, add a few contacts friends or family. That person gets an alert on their phone and can follow your signal.
'Companion' app is designed so the user can input a destination; share their walk with anyone in their contact list. “So instantly on your friend’s side they can see you walking and if you go off route, don’t make it home on time, or if you fall, or your headphones get yanked out of your phone, instantly your contacts are notified to check up on you,” explained one of the developers.

One of the most unique features include an option that alerts your friends if you are nervous, or another option that instantly calls police.

Companion will collect data to tell police where a greater presence is needed and hopes to uncover crime patterns that can be curbed.


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