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Fake Make-A-Wish sweepstakes stir real warnings

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Nothing is sacred, and this proves it.

The Make-A-Wish organization, a well-respected non-profit that grants wishes to very sick children, finds itself at the center of a recent scam.

It works like this: someone pretending to be from the Federal Trade Commission is calling people to say they have won hundreds of thousands of dollars in a sweepstakes supposedly conducted by Make-A-Wish.

The next part will sound familiar because it’s the hallmark of many a scam: People can’t just collect their supposed winnings. Instead, they must first cough up thousands of dollars to cover taxes and/or insurance on the award.

The scammers are using the name of the well-known Make-A-Wish so their calls will be more believable. On top of that, they may be calling, or appear to be calling, from a 202 area code used in Washington, D.C., where most federal agencies are headquartered.

Make-A-Wish, in a posting on its website, says the organization “does NOT conduct – nor is it affiliated with – any sweepstakes whatsoever.” Likewise, the FTC has posted a warning saying that it does not oversee sweepstakes, and its employees do not give out sweepstakes prizes.

“We do, however, go after sweepstakes scams like this one,” the agency says.

Remember that any time you have to pay to get a prize, it’s a scam.

If you get this kind of call, report it to the FTC at 1-877-FTC-HELP or Make-A-Wish also wants to be notified at, or at (800) 722-9474.

“Plenty of contests are run by reputable marketers and non-profits,” the FTC says. “But every day, people lose thousands of dollars to prize scams.”

A few other ways to tell that you have not really won a big sweepstakes:

• It’s not likely you’ve won a huge prize if your notification was mailed by bulk rate.

• Did you even enter the sweepstakes? If not and you are told you won, this falls under the category of “if it’s too good to be true, it’s not true.”

LinedIn scam

LinkedIn users are the targets in the latest scam hitting the networking service.

It starts with a message asking you to apply for a job, and when you check out the recruiter’s LinkedIn profile, the whole thing looks completely genuine. You may even have several connections in common, according to a recent alert from the Better Business Bureau.

In some versions of the scam, the message will contain a link that claims to take you to an online job application. You are then supposed to upload your résumé and provide certain personal information. Examples are addresses and Social Security numbers.

In other versions, you respond to the message and are told you have been hired. At that point, they’ll hit you up for training or other supposed job-related expenses, the BBB says.

“No matter the details of the scam, the job never materializes,” acording to the BBB alert. “The scammer takes the money or information and disappears. Victims who share personal details are at risk for identity theft.”

Here are some ways to stay safe while using LinkedIn:

• Set your LinkedIn privacy settings.

• Don’t accept every request. Take a look at the user’s profile for completeness and good grammar. Don’t be fooled if it appears you have several connections in common. A bogus recruiter can create a large network to look more legitimate.

• If a recruiter contacts you through email, ask to speak by phone. “Scammers will try to dodge this with excuses, such as being out the country,” the BBB says.

Ellen Marks is assistant business editor at the Albuquerque Journal. Contact her at or 505-823-3842 if you are aware of what sounds like a scam. To report a scam to law enforcement, contact the New Mexico Consumer Protection Division toll-free at 1-844-255-9210.