Consumer Protection Law
Consumer Protection Law Questions? Ask a Lawyer Now.
This is a well known scam. When you really win a contest you NEVER have to pay anything in order to get your money. The money the company has when you are a real winner is already yours. So if there are any expenses a real contest takes it out of your money which they already have and gives you the rest of it with no strings attached. Having to pay anything up front, no matter how convincing the reason, is the #1 sign of a contest fraud.
Also you cannot win a contest you never entered. To enter a lottery, you have to buy lottery ticket and you must produce that winning ticket at the claim center in order to get your prize. To enter a sweepstakes you must enter the drawing and be assigned your numbers. The contest keeps the other half of the entry form. When you win, you have to produce your proof of entry. Otherwise you cannot collect.
Don't have any further contact with these folks. They have nothing for you and will only attempt to get you to send even more money to collect your non-existent winnings. Report the fraud to the FBI at their Internet Crime Complaint Center at IC3.gov and to the Federal Trade Commission at FTC.gov. Your only chance of getting your money back is if law enforcement can find out who and where these people really are and bring them to justice.
You may also want to talk to your accountant. When you are the victim of a criime, your unreimbursed losses are at least to some extent tax deductible. So you should be able to get something back in the form of a deduction when you file your taxes.