Saturday, December 15, 2007

And the Winner is….The One Who DIDN’T Enter!

Ever hear the saying, "You can’t win if you don’t enter?"

Well, maybe you can. Before you enter that next drawing at your local department store, sporting event, or county fair, think twice.

Yesterday, I was listening to a local radio program as I cruised home from showing homes listed throughout Forest Lake and Ham Lake. In between Christmas carols, the DeeJays were fielding phone calls from people who had been scammed.

One gal called in with a story that got my attention. She had entered to win a prize at Spookyworld, a Halloween event in the Twin Cities, a few years back. A few days after the event, she received a call announcing that she had won the grand prize. What she didn’t realize was the caller had stolen the box of entries. She was told to claim her prize they needed her personal information. I don’t know if it was to direct deposit a cash prize or to notify the IRS of her winnings, but she was asked for and provided personal account personal information. She was scammed for thousands of dollars and it took over two years to straighten out the mess.

We are all certain that we wouldn’t be dumb enough to give out a credit card or social security number…but would we? This lady was convinced the call was legitimate by the fast-talking scam artist. After all, the caller knew she had entered to win a specific prize at Spookyworld and the day she had entered. He was very good; she was totally convinced she had won.

As a Realtor, I have often thought of putting a prize drawing box into businesses to collect names of people interested in learning more about buying a first home or relocating to Anoka County, Minnesota. Now I am no longer certain that is a great idea.

What if someone took that box and pretended to be me? I would feel terrible if a similar situation occurred. From this point on, every time I collect names and addresses, I will be vigilant to protect them as this scam was an eye-opener. I have always protected my clients' personal information as if it were my own and potential clients are no less important to me.

If the box is not locked down, think twice about that entry. And if someone calls saying you won a prize, don’t give out ANY personal information over the phone. Be cautious. Don’t get caught up in the excitement of winning and lose your identity!

If you are buying, selling or relocating to Minnesota and need help from a professional Realtor, give me a call or visit my website for a FREE Relocation Packet. I specialize in acreage and lakeshore properties in the north and east Twin Cities metro area including Ham Lake, Lino Lakes and all communities in the Forest Lake School District! Serving Anoka, Chisago, Ramsey and Washington Counties in Minnesota.

Copyright 2007 Teri Eckholm