THE SCAM: "American Idol" sweepstakes
HOW IT WORKS:
A Northern San Joaquin Valley couple received word by mail that they had won an "American Idol sweepstakes," with winners selected by a random drawing of viewers by their cable company. That was the first tip-off, because there's no way for a cable company to determine who is watching what programs without a Nielsen ratings box. The second warning was that the letter came with two checks from a bank in Nebraska. The letter told the couple to deposit the checks and then pay the "government fees" affiliated with the winnings. The couple's granddaughter determined the checks were bogus.
WHAT'S AT STAKE: Your money
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HOW TO BEAT IT: Watching "American Idol" tryouts, viewers may suspect that more than a few contestants fake being bad singers as a joke. This scam tries to pass itself off as a legitimate offer, but it's just as phony as someone screeching off-key on purpose. Give it the boot and don't cash the checks. Even Paula Abdul couldn't find anything good to say about this scam.
Contact Bee staff writer Ben van der Meer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2331.
For past Scam Alerts, go to www.modbee.com/business/scam.