CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) – A Charlotte woman is warning others to be leery of emails, texts, and other forms of communication that appear to be from government officials.
Stacey Hepp received an email from an account portraying to be the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. She says the email notified her that she won $1 million in North Carolina’s Summer Cash Drawing, also known as North Carolina’s COVID-19 vaccine lottery.
“He [husband] and I both stared at that email and thought this would be so exciting, but this just can’t be real,” Hepp said.
She was cautiously optimistic because the email appeared to have the official NCDHHS logo on it. Just in case luck really was on her side, she responded to the email. According to NCDHHS’ official rulebook, winners have 48 hours to accept their prize.
The email she received in response raised some red flags. She says the emailer asked for her personal information such as her birthdate, occupation, and driver’s license number. The email then directed her to contact a Claims Consultant at an AOL account.
“His name was firstname.lastname@example.org,” Hepp explained. “And I was like’ oh, Ryan’. The AOL.com was a giveaway.”
Hepp is not the only one to receive an email like this. Tom Bartholomy is the President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of the Southern Piedmont. He says the BBB has received several reports of North Carolina vaccine lottery scams.
“The scammers use that excitement level to get you to make a phone call,” Bartholomy said. “Once that money’s going in the wrong direction, that’s when you know there’s a scam at foot here.”
He says there are some tell-tale signs of scams. For example, if they ask for your bank information, if they tell you to pay taxes on the lottery winnings in advance, or if they tell you to pay the taxes via Cash App, Venmo, Zelle, or with a prepaid card.
“People think, ‘oh, that’s really convenient’, but it’s not traceable and it’s not retrievable,” Bartholomy said.
Hepp wanted to share her experience to warn others to be leery of messages that claim you won the Summer Cash Drawing.
“We’re so lucky to have this vaccine and we’re using every measure to make sure people are taking this vaccine. Rewarding them for taking it. And then, for somebody to just completely take advantage of that is just unthinkable,” Hepp said.
If you do win the North Carolina Summer Cash Drawing, the official rules state that NCDHHS will notify you by telephone, email, or mailing address. A spokesperson for NCDHHS says a representative from the agency will call you and attempt to leave a voicemail if you do not answer. Recipients should expect the call to come from a 919-area code. NCDHHS will also send an email notifying you of your winnings. The spokesperson says the email will come from a “dhhs.nc.gov” account.
The full statement from NCDHHS can be read here:
Summer Cash Drawing and Cash 4 College winners will be called by a representative from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. Winners may also be emailed. They will have 48 hours to accept their prize.
The number that contacts the winners will be from a 919 area code number, and representatives will leave a voicemail if possible. If you have been contacted and told you are a Summer Cash Drawing prize winner and are concerned you are speaking to a scammer, hang up and call the NCDHHS administrative assistance line at 919-855-4800. If you are a legitimate prize winner, you will be connected to the appropriate person. If contacting a winner through email is necessary, the contact will come from an email address ending in “dhhs.nc.gov”.
Do not respond to a letter, email, phone call or social media post asking you to send money to receive a donation or prize. NCDHHS will never send you this type of communication. Never give your credit card, Social Security number, driver’s license, passport or bank account numbers over the phone to someone promising you a donation or prize. If you receive a call or email about the drawings that seems fraudulent, contact the North Carolina Department of Justice at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.
To help federal authorities monitor scams, you can also report fraudulent activity by clicking on Scam Tracker at BBB.org.
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