The Better Business Bureau is warning people of the increasing prevalence of scams relating to prizes, lotteries and sweepstakes.
The organization said the scammers claim to callers that they are with reputable organizations and they won prizes ranging from money, to trips or vehicles.
Johnny Gambrell said he was nearly a victim of one of the calls, which he said involved a series of people claiming they were with Publishers Clearing House.
"He had called me and told me I won, through Publishers clearing House, a brand new Mercedes Benz," said Gambrell. "He said it was blue, and all I had to...was go to the bank and draft some money out."
Gambrell didn't fall for the scam, but many reportedly have.
The BBB said that, last year, $117 million was bilked out of unsuspecting victims throughout North America through these scams, which are becoming the preferred way for scammers to operate.
The organization said most of the calls originate out of Jamaica or Costa Rica, making it difficult to track down the people involved and prosecute them. The BBB, instead, is asking people to be aware of the way many companies associated with prize giveaways operate.
"Publishers Clearing House normally comes to your house. They don't call you or e-mail you," said Hope Evans, with the Better Business Bureau of the Upstate.
Evans added, "You shouldn't be having to put up money to win a prize."
Gambrell said his experience was with a more sophisticated scam that didn't involve recorded calls, but live people.
"I know I talked with three people," he said.
The BBB also reports that scammers are also using text messages with web links to get people to give up their information.
If you are a victim of this scam and have had money taken from you, you're advised to contact law enforcement.
If you have received the calls, it is advised you contact the Better Business Bureau.
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