Army veteran scammed out of $5,000 in competition

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) — The joy of winning has slowly turned to anger for a Cleveland Army veteran this year.

Lenard Johnson received a letter in January saying he was the winner of a huge raffle.

“I said ‘oh wow, we’ve been trying to get this stuff for years,'” Johnson said.

He says he believed his victory was the result of continuously entering a drawing from Publisher’s Clearinghouse repeatedly.

The documents he received say he won a jeep and a week of $7,000.

However, to get the prizes, he was told he had to send thousands of dollars in fees.

“I sent them $5,000,” Johnson said.

And after that they came back asking for another $4,500.

“In all, they asked for $9,500,” he said.

He did not send the second payment. Instead, he called the company directly.

“They told me they didn’t want me to send them money. They said if I was a winner they would come knocking on my door,” Johnson said.

It was then that he realized he had fallen into the trap of a known scam.

“It made me feel stupid and bad,” he said.

Our Better Business Bureau Scam Squad partners say there’s a surefire way to tell if a lottery offer is a scam.

“If they ask you to donate money when you’ve earned it, that’s the first red flag,” Ericka Dilworth said.

Last year, the BBB collected nearly 2,000 reports nationwide of lottery and sweepstakes scams.

“If I was a little younger, I would try to hunt them down myself,” Johnson said.

The army veteran has records he says prove what he sent where. Still, Dillworth says it’s nearly impossible for authorities to track down the crooks and the chances of getting your money back are slim.

“I would say almost zero. if you paid in cash or by check or by any means other than a credit card, it is incredibly difficult to get your money back.

“I have a job to do the bills, but I’m going to have to buy less food,” Johnson said.

With his savings and hope for the future significantly depleted, Johnson wants the word out.

“Don’t send them anything,” he said.

If you need to report a similar scam, you can contact the BBB through their scam tracker.

You can also call the Cuyahoga County Scam Squad at 216-443-SCAM.

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