A 99-year-old Santa Clara County resident recently received an email claiming to come from the U.S. Department of Treasury to advise him that he had won a sweepstakes for $150 million – plus $10,000 each week for the rest of his life. The South County resident was suspicious of the email and called the District Attorney’s Consumer Mediation Unit to report the scam.

The suspicious clues provided in the email:

  • The first sentence quoted three questionable resources: Department of Treasury, The American Cash Awards Inc., a private company located in Georgia with an “F” rating from the Better Business Bureau, and The Inland Revenue Services, which was a former British tax collection agency. Governmental agencies do not give away millions of dollars in sweepstakes, and British agencies do not conduct prize giveaways in the U.S.
  • The email claims that the senior recipient is a “noble citizen,” – a flattering, if nonsensical designation – who is entitled to exemptions from California law.
  • The email requests the recipient, in order to be paid, send pictures of his bank statement, his driver’s license, and his social security card, as well as a copy of his latest phone bill. These are the red flags of almost all email or phone-based financial scams.

Avoid these email scams by following these tips:

  • Never give out any personal or financial information to someone who calls you, since you really do not know with whom you are speaking to. The phone number on your Caller ID can easily be manipulated.
  • If you did not enter a sweepstakes, or if you did not buy a lottery ticket, you did not win a prize. If you truly won a prize, under California law, you are only required to pay reasonable shipping and handling fees.
  • Forward this type of email to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.

If you are suspicious about an email who claims you won millions of dollars, call the Consumer Mediation Unit at (408) 792-2880.

If you are interested in learning how to avoid this scam, speak with a Community Resource Specialist: (408) 350-3200, option 1.