Bryan Cohen Mar. 27, 2013, 8:06pm

PIERRE, S.D. (Legal Newsline) - South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley asked consumers Tuesday to reach out to their elderly family, neighbors or friends to warn them about the potential dangers of sweepstakes scams.

Sweepstakes scams occur when a tondelemarketer claims a person has won a large sweepstake prize and that an upfront fee is needed to cover taxes. Legitimate sweepstakes rarely require the participant to pay handling charges, service fees or any other charges to receive a win.

Jackley's Consumer Protection Division has received several recent complaints from victims about sweepstake scam telemarketers.

In one instance, a senior wired $2,000 and tried to wire an additional $1,800 before family members stopped the final transaction. In another case, an individual wired $1,000 and tried to wire another $1,300 before a bank employee recognized the scam and contacted the victim's family. One individual was harassed by a sweepstake telemarketer for two years with the promise of a $15 million jackpot. The victim lost more than $75,000 in the scam.

"Take the time to talk with elderly friends and neighbors to make sure they understand the danger in responding to sweepstake offers," Jackley said. "Keep in mind that the minute the telemarketer asks for an upfront fee to receive a sweepstakes winning, it is a scam."

Sweepstakes scams often tell the victims they have won a prize, but a person can only win a sweepstakes he or she has entered. The scams instruct the victims to use wire services to send taxes and service fees because it is nearly impossible to trace the person who received the money.

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