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July 20, 2021

Media contact: Liz Brocker (701) 328-2213

Bismarck, ND – Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem warns all North Dakotans that the best way to stop a scam is to simply hang up. Every day the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection division receives reports from people who have lost money to scams.

A retired couple recently reported that they had fallen victim to a prize notification scam. The couple said it started several weeks ago, when they answered a telephone call supposedly from the California Gaming Commission claiming they had won a $1.7 million prize.  The couple was instructed not to tell anyone.  

Over the next several weeks, scam artists posing as prize officials, attorneys, and even a federal judge, instructed the couple to send money orders and cash to cover various supposed taxes and fees before the prize money could be released. The amounts varied from $500 to $10,000. Initially, they sent money orders. Then the scam artists directed them to send cash via UPS, by inserting the bills between the pages of magazines or books and labeling the package “legal documents.” The victims reported that over the course of three months, they had sent more than $89,000, even taking out a bank loan using their home as collateral.

“Sadly, this couple put their future financial security at risk and have lost it all,” said Stenehjem. “If you are asked to send any money to collect a prize, it’s a scam, every single time. There are no exceptions to this rule, no matter how persuasive or authoritative the caller may seem, it’s always a lie,” he continued.

Parrell Grossman, director of the Consumer Protection division, said that the prize notification scam is one of several “advance fee” scams that have been circulating in the state for the past few years. These scams range from fake prize notifications to phony warnings from the IRS or social security administration. Grossman offered the following reminders:

  1. Never, ever, send any money in response to a phone call. If you think it might be a real call, check with the Consumer Protection division at 701-328-3404 before sending any money.
  2. If you are asked to purchase gift cards, hide money in packages, or send multiple payments, you know it is a scam.

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