Scams are everywhere these days. They get to us through our e-mail inbox, claiming to be our bank and needing personal information. They come to us through the TV and Internet, promising that we will get rich quick, lose weight or look gorgeous. We do our best to avoid them, and if you have half a brain, you won’t fall for most of them. Sometimes, however, scams are sneaky. The people behind them use downright dirty tactics to get what they need, and you’re left scratching your head and wondering, “What the heck just happened?” Let me share some information that might prevent you from falling into one trap in particular.
Recently, I received a call on my cell phone that was restricted. I didn’t answer it, because I was at work. Later in the evening, my phone rang; it was restricted again. After debating, I decided to answer it and find out who it was. What’s the worst that could happen?
When I answered the phone, a woman said that she was from PRS and that she was just giving me a courtesy call to tell me I had been entered into the “Dream of a Lifetime Sweepstakes.” She said that every major credit card holder would be entered into the sweepstakes. The grand prize would be $25,000, a trip to Australia or a brand new BMW. Then she asked if I agreed to be entered into the sweepstakes. When I asked what company she was with again and if there was a catch, she started acting weird. She kept repeating that it was just a courtesy call. I said I didn’t want to be entered into anything if there was a catch of any kind. She said that there wasn’t a catch and then acted like she was in a big hurry and ended the call.
I was a little suspicious and uneasy as I closed my phone. I don’t even have a real credit card; I just have a debit card that can be used as one. I also wondered how this company got my cell phone number and why they would waste their time calling practically every adult in America just to tell them that they were entered. It just didn’t seem right.
So I searched online for the “Dream of a Lifetime Sweepstakes.” So many results came up that it was overwhelming. Then I added “scam” and “PRS”. Bingo. I read about the complex way that they scam their victims. One account came from someone who claimed that the company not only scammed them, but that they also ended up working for the company later on. They gave the insider’s scoop on how they operate. Trust me, it was scary.
Basically, PRS (or PRI, LMG or IMA, as they frequently change names) will call you to tell you that you have been entered into a sweepstakes. Once you agree, they ask if you will take a quick survey. This survey apparently determines your age, marital status, which card you hold, and so forth. Once they do that, they say that you will receive a free diamond watch for participating, along with three free magazine subscriptions for 60 months. They also say that to complement the free magazine, you will receive another magazine for a full 60 months, but that that one will cost only $3.84 a week.
Next, comes the tricky part. PRS will verify your address and record you agreeing to be charged nearly $60 a month over the next year (they will say it is more convenient than paying every week for 60 months). They will also call back a few months later and offer to lower the payments to $40 a month, but they really just record you agreeing to pay an additional $40 a month, totaling $100 every month. They can also record you saying yes at any point in the conversation and edit it, so that it sounds like you are agreeing to the charges.
They are based in Virginia, but that they do not pitch to people in Virginia; the distance must make it harder to track them down. If you have already become or do become a victim, you should do the following: call and tell them that you know how they operate and that it’s a scam. They will set your balance to $0, apparently. You can also tell them you live in Virginia. Either way, if you stop making payments, they will probably not press charges, because it would bring their company too much attention. If you would like to read one of the most detailed reports I found on this company, please go to the following link: http://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/0/258/RipOff0258342.htm
I consider myself lucky. I think my accusing attitude made the caller want to move on to someone more gullible. They probably prefer people that don’t ask so many questions. Once I asked for her name, company name and what the catch was, her attitude changed pretty quickly. I was still afraid I might have been recorded saying yes, but I never gave them my address or credit card information. It’s been about a month and I haven’t had any suspicious charges on my debit card. I think I’m in the clear.
So if you receive a suspicious-sounding call, especially one in which they talk about a sweepstakes, tell them you are not interested and hang up immediately. If it sounds legitimate, ask for their number and do your research first. Never give an unknown company your credit card information or any other personal information. From now on, I’m not even going to answer my phone if it’s restricted. They can leave a message if it’s something important. Above all, it boils down to this: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. I’m slowly learning that being too paranoid is often better than being too naïve.
Honestly, how do these people sleep at night?