Over the past few weeks we have heard from dozens of consumers who have been contacted by scammers posing as employees of the National Consumers League. These scammers, impersonating NCL staff, inform their victims that they have won a sweepstakes or lottery and that they must pay a fee to claim their winnings.
While this may appear legitimate, it is not. Consumers have been tricked into paying for phony “insurance,” “taxes” owed to the IRS or the state treasury, “processing fees,” or “lawyers’ fees.” While the scammers can go to great lengths to convince their victims that they are NCL representatives—as evidenced by an actual letter a victim received, which we have published below—consumers who fall for these scams can lose hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
The National Consumers League has never and will never be involved in any lottery or sweepstakes. If anyone claiming to be from the National Consumers League contacts you about a prize you have won, they are trying to scam you.
Unfortunately, perpetrators of this scam do not just impersonate NCL employees. They are known to impersonate government agencies like the IRS and other respected consumer groups. To protect yourself from this scam, it is important to remember the following:
- You can’t trust Caller ID. Scammers are pros at tricking Caller ID systems into showing the caller information they want it to show. Just because the Caller ID says “National Consumers League” or the “IRS,” that does not guarantee that the person on the other end is with that organization.
- Never pay for a prize. If someone informs you that you won a prize, you should not have to pay any taxes, delivery fees, or insurance payments to collect it. If they tell you otherwise, it’s a scam.
- When in doubt, ask. If you’re not sure if the caller or sender was real, look up the phone number for the individual or agency in your phonebook or on the agency’s or company’s official website. Call that number yourself and check to see if what you were told by the caller is accurate.
- Be careful of email senders who appear to be legit. Scammers can spoof the “from” address of emails and have been known to run imposter scams over email. If you receive an email from someone demanding money right away, it’s probably a scam. Instead of replying, simply delete the email. Don’t click on any links or attachments—they could contain malware that will infect your computer and steal your personal information.
- If asked for payment with a wire transfer, cash-reload card, or gift card—it’s a scam. These are all ways that scammers love to be paid because it’s practically impossible to track.
- Report suspected fraud. If you become a victim of an imposter scam or you suspect you have spotted one, report it! You can file a complaint at Fraud.org via our secure online complaint form. We’ll share your complaint with our network of more than 90 law enforcement and consumer protection agency partners who can and do put fraudsters behind bars. The Federal Trade Commission also has many great resources on imposter scams available at www.ftc.gov/imposters.