The Sweepstakes Scam – Unsolicited and Highly Annoying

How do you elicit sensitive information from somebody most effectively? If it is about winning money, most people will set their skepticism aside and reveal their bank account information to the self-proclaimed bringer of good luck without hesitation. After all, it is about filling the account not draining it, is it not? Unfortunately, most often the callers focus on leeching your bank account dry.

Where Did the Call Center Get My Phone Number From?
In most cases a previous participation in sweepstakes are the most common reason for unsolicited phone calls. Via the Web, the TV, during village fairs or strolls through the mall, there are enough possibilities sign up for sweepstakes. For a slight chance of winning, people will disclose personal information eagerly. But what is hidden from first sight? The raffle organizers deem such information quite valuable and sell them for marketing purposes. Once the agreement on telephonic contact was given via the sweepstakes participation, the organizer's affiliate partners will utilize your data for customer acquisition. Unfortunately, these affiliate partners may not be mentioned on the entry list. Bottom line, it is imperative not to divulge your data! In the context of online services, it is often the case that we unconsciously give our consent to transfer our sensitive details for advertising purposes. Ergo, always read the fine print! To be on the safe side you can always object to the use of your data in written form.

I never participated in any raffle, contest or sweepstakes...
... and yet, they won't stop calling me! Depending on the country you live in, the laws concerning the calls-centers' methods of operation, their aggregation of data and its subsequent use varies significantly. In the UK, for instance, registering with the TPS (Telephone Preference System) should prevent any call center harassment from within the UK's borders, unfortunately, most call centers are based abroad and, therewith, out of the British authorities reach. The Do Not Call List in the USA offers a similar service but suffers from the same ineffectiveness due to the lack of enforcement. The German people entertain no such service. However, German call centers are obliged to display the number they are calling from and to reveal the heritage of the callee's data. In most cases the data has been acquired from third parties which, of course, does not reflect a method of operation in conformity with the law.

Do Not Tremble, Do Not Fear! - A Quick Guide to Spam Opposition
Use the obvious – Phone Directory 2.0
Prior to counteracting such fraudulent entrepreneurship it is imperative to identify the perpetrators. The online phone directories should be your first step on the way, although, dubious call centers may avoid being listing in these directories. Nonetheless, this steps is a matter of mere seconds.

You Are NOT Alone! - Share Your Knowledge!
Solidarise in Blogs and Forums! A lot of people have the same problems and some may have already found solutions to theirs. Don not hesitate to ask for advice! Although it may seem as if the authorities remain idle, you can always approach the officials, after all, they are meant to help you! The British ICO creed is to uphold the information rights in the public interest just as the German Verbraucherzentrale, in accordance with its name, is supposed to help the consumer in word and deed. In most cases, it requires a considerable amount of complaints in order to make the network operator disable the number completely.
The default summons, however, are a different matter. As long as they are not of legal nature they are best to be ignored. Scammers will naturally refrain from a probable lawsuit. But at the end of the day, you are always wise to consider every source of knowledge at your disposal to gain advantage over the scammer.

Don't Wait Till the Lawyer Rings Your Bell.... Ring the Lawyers First!
If you partook in a contest or sweepstakes is actually of little interest. More important is to keep calm! Do NOT let them frighten or intimidate you, that only leads to you paying them. Even if they threaten with a lawsuit you would be wise to remember that the claimant carries the burden of proof. Furthermore, do not overestimate the weightiness of lawyers and debt collection companies since their are nothing but service providers who may act on the behalf of their clients but know little of their clients own machinations. Although it might proof rather difficult to actually charge a fraudsters hiding abroad, there are ways to make their lives a little nasty. For instance, you can inform their banks, yet just another service provider, of their clients fraudulent activities. The same is applicable for lawyers and debt collection companies as well.

Methods of the Sweepstakes Scam
The scammer use various ways based on complex systems to obtain your money.
  1. The Cold Call Method – You Don't Know Me But I Got a Nice Proposition for You.
    The callee is led to believe that he or she partook in contest some time ago. Since his or her enlistment in the lottery, the costs of participation accumulated and need to be settled. In the same breath, the scammers offer the option to quit the lottery for a "fair" cease charge. The only thing left to do is to compare existing details on the callee's bank account.
  2. Automated Calls – Cut the Human Cost
    This method equals the previous way to gain to personal data. The sole difference lies in the fact that there is no call center agent but a pre-recorded message. Hang up before you are relayed to an call center agent. Once relayed the costs for a call minute will be exorbitant.
  3. Watch Your Phone Bill – It Might Have Little Surprise for You
    The callee is informed about his participation in a contest or lottery. For a one time fee the callee may quit the lottery at once. The cost is settled through your phone bill which will make it difficult for you to cancel the payment.
  4. Many a Little Makes a Mickle – Mind the Penny!!!
    This method is probably the most effective of the four. Basically it focuses on draining your bank account in very small debit. You may not notice these at first but once you cancel them a hail of calls from debt collection companies and self-proclaimed lawyers will assail your phone. Since most people are not sure whether they enlisted in an contest or lottery they will pay since it is just a small payment.
Of Meds, Self-Proclaimed Consumer Protectors and other Scam Methods
Although today' increasing health consciousness has its benefits, it provides ample opportunities for those who suffer neither regrets nor remorse. Not only health-conscious people fall victim to this method but an growing number of pensioners are being robbed of their well-earned pensions by luring them into a costly subscription by offering free sample. The acceptance of the sample will equal a contract formation in the eyes of the fraudsters from which you will find it hard to withdraw.

Ignorance is the fraudsters greatest advantage. In disguise as consumer protectors they exploit the people's ignorance brazenly and, unfortunately, most effectively. The scammers lead the callee to believe in the existence of a "Call-Block-List" to which subscription not only requires your personal data, but also a small processing fee.

The self-proclaimed consumer protectors are only surmounted by the made-up class action lawsuit against fraudulent entrepreneurs. Little does the callee know that behind the scenes these very entrepreneurs scheme to gain access to his or her bank account since a participation in the class action would require a administrative fee as well.

The most insidious designs dwell in the minds of those who pose as insurance marketers whose target audiences are companies and their administrations. Since security and safety are always sensitive topics the caller will easily find a sympathetic ear. Once a common ground has been established the callee is offered numerous articles such as first aid kits and safety clothing for horrendous prices. Although private persons are sparred from these kinds of scam, businesses would do well to sharpen their senses.
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