Who hasn’t, at some in their lives, dreamed of discovering a pile a treasure with their name on it? The thought of coming up on free money, getting notified about a prize you’ve won or finding a chunk of cash on the side of the road is exciting to think about.

That’s exactly how scammers want you to feel. Excitement. The rush of happiness will likely cloud your judgement. You may not see the red flags or take a moment to think things over — you’re too busy making a list of how you’ll spend your new funds, what bills they will pay, the gifts they will buy.

The good news? You may very well soon be notified about your “free money.” The bad news? It’s a scam. In the latest scam, con artists will contact you via a postcard in the mail, an email, or a message on social media stating you have an unclaimed reward that can be redeemed with major retailers, such as Walmart and Target stores. According to the message, your reward is worth $100 dollars or more. But you had better act quickly because you only have a few more days to redeem it. You are given a phone number to call to find out how to get your reward.

When you call, the scammer asks for your personal information in order to “confirm your identity.” Con artists may ask you for your name, address, government ID number, or other sensitive details. Once your identity is confirmed, you may be asked to pay a small fee to cover mailing costs. Now, the person needs your debit or credit card number. Scammers will have gained access to your personal information and may attempt to make fraudulent charges using your card information. And, of course, your “unclaimed money” will never arrive because it never existed.

How to protect yourself from unclaimed asset scams:

Unclaimed money comes from accounts in financial institutions and companies where there’s been no activity or contact by the account owner in more than a year.

Mostly common those are savings or checking accounts, stocks, uncashed dividends, security deposits, and tax refunds.

  • Think you have unclaimed assets? In the United States, there is no central place to look for unclaimed assets. Unclaimed.org has links to resources for each state. In Idaho, visit the State Treasurer’s Office’s website for unclaimed property at yourmoney.idaho.gov.
  • Be wary of unsolicited correspondence. If you receive an unsolicited letter, phone call, email or any other kind of correspondence from a stranger, be careful! Most legitimate companies will not contact you this way unless you have previously given them permission to do so.
  • Never give your personal information to strangers. Never give anyone you don’t know and trust access to any of your personal information. This includes your full name, phone number and address, your ID numbers, and your banking information.

If you’ve been the victim of a scam, help others avoid the same fate by reporting your experience at BBB.org/ScamTracker. This free resource provides a place to research and submit scam-related information, so BBB can investigate further and educate others.

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Jeremy Johnson is the Eastern Idaho marketplace manager for the Better Business Bureau Northwest + Pacific.


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