FTC says elderly Americans tricked out of $11 million by sweepstakes ‘scam’

FTC logoA California man tricked elderly Americans out of $11 million using phony sweepstakes award letters, the Federal Trade Commission alleged Monday while announcing it had sued to stop the “scam.”

Liam I. Moran, of Ventura, Calif., allegedly sent out more than 3.7 million letters during the past two years, many bearing the line “Over TWO MILLION DOLLARS in sweepstakes has been reserved for you.” Consumers are told they must send in $20 or $30 to collect the money. Those who pay merely receive a list of sweepstakes they can enter. The agency estimates that $11 million was sent to Moran and his companies in response to the offer.

“The vast majority of the victims of this scam appear to be over 65,” the FTC said in its announcement.

While fine print on the letters sent by Moran’s companies say the recipients will get only a sweepstakes list after they pay, the “dense, confusing language” on the back contradicts statements on the front, saying recipients are “guaranteed” to win.

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“The FTC alleges that this language does not appear designed to correct deceptive statements, but exists mainly as an attempt to provide a defense to law enforcement action,” the FTC said. Worth noting, potential scammers – fine print is not enough to stay on the right side of the law.  Disclosures must be “clear” and “conspicuous,” according to federal law.

A federal court has halted the mailings and frozen the assets of Moran’s companies; the FTC will try to issue refunds to consumers.

Fake sweepstakes have long seduced elderly consumers, who are the victim of many too-good-to-be-true scams.  Reader Dana Howell points out this important study which explains why — their BS detectors stop working. That’s why it’s important to stay in touch with older relatives, watch their mail and their money carefully.

There’s a warm place in hell for people who steal from children and the elderly.

The agency offers tips on avoiding sweepstakes scams here.



About Bob Sullivan 1344 Articles
BOB SULLIVAN is a veteran journalist and the author of four books, including the 2008 New York Times Best-Seller, Gotcha Capitalism, and the 2010 New York Times Best Seller, Stop Getting Ripped Off! His latest, The Plateau Effect, was published in 2013, and as a paperback, called Getting Unstuck in 2014. He has won the Society of Professional Journalists prestigious Public Service award, a Peabody award, and The Consumer Federation of America Betty Furness award, and been given Consumer Action’s Consumer Excellence Award.

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