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Beware of scam from 'Pal Service' -- Detroit Lakes resident was targeted

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) of Minnesota and North Dakota has received a report from a Detroit Lakes area resident regarding a fraudulent solicitation.

The consumer said she received a call from an unknown party claiming to be with U.S.A. Pal Service, who told her she qualified for a government program wherein she would receive a $500,000 check, $200,000 in cash and a BMW. All she would need to do is pay $255 for shipping and handling and the prizes would be hers.

Suspicious of the call, she wisely told the caller she would take the cash and call it good. At that point, the caller said she would have to pay the $255 before the cash would be delivered to her in a cash box, which would require a code to open. He told her she would get the code upon receipt of her payment. The customer, doing the right thing, informed her she would not be sending any money anywhere, nor would she be providing any personal financial information to the caller.

The BBB is advising consumers in Central Minnesota to be on alert for calls of this nature and reminds people that if you receive a call, letter or e-mail saying you've won a sweepstakes, lottery, prize, or government grant you should follow these guidelines to avoid being scammed:

•If you're being directed to wire money, provide access to your bank account or credit card numbers, or forward any personal financial information in order to claim your sweepstakes or lottery winnings, this is an attempt to steal your money or identity and NOT a legitimate offer. Do not provide this information.

•Legitimate sweepstakes companies do not require you to pay taxes, customs fees, shipping or handling, or any other fee before awarding your winnings. They are also prohibited by U.S. law from requiring that you buy something to enter a sweepstakes contest or to receive sweepstakes mailings.

•Read the fine print on any sweepstakes offer or entry form that you receive in the mail. Usually this says something to the effect that you win if your number is selected or if your number is one of the winning numbers. You have not yet won anything.

•Do not be deceived by seals, official-sounding names, or terms that imply affiliation with or endorsement by a government entity, here or abroad. It is illegal for a promoter to misrepresent an affiliation with a government organization or other well-known organization.

•If you have truly won a prize, whether it is a cash card, gift certificate or product, there should be no redemption fees, postage fees, delivery fees, or other conditional rules to comply with in order to receive your prize.

If you ever have questions about a call you've received, contact the BBB at (651) 699-1111 or 1-800-646-6222.