scam alert

Scammers are using a Publisher Clearing House ruse as the latest tactic to take people’s money.

Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes are legitimate, however, scammers have honed in on a way to manipulate money out of the masses by misusing the company’s name.

They call and tell you that you’ve won a large amount of money, but you have to pay around 1% in taxes in order to get the money,” said Dorothy Smart who was a target. “They argue with you and get hateful, talk down to you, and won’t let you finish a sentence until they are on to the next thing and they keep calling back. There are people who might not realize that this is a scam and are giving them their life savings to get their ‘prize money.’”

For this current phone scam, and ones like it, individuals get a call from PCH telling them they’ve won a particular amount of money, and sometimes something else, like a new car. They tell the individual that ‘it’s a secret, to tell no one.’ They then tell the individual to go and purchase a particular type of VISA gift card and deposit 1% of a particular amount. They then give directives on getting the card information to the right person.

They then tell the person to be at home, alone, at a particular time to receive their prize(s).

Locals have spoken to both a male and female scammer.

To make themselves sound legitimate, they give the individual a pack number, a ticket number, a security number and a badge number.

For those who don’t know, PCH does not email or call its big winners. If you receive an email, bulk mail letter or telephone call saying you’ve won a big prize, its a scam. All PCH prizes of $500 or greater are awarded by either certified or express letter or in person by the Prize Patrol.

You do not have to pay to receive a legitimate PCH win. If your prize notification asks for money to pay for taxes, to release the prize, to pay for customs, or for any other reason, it’s a scam.

If you receive a phone call from someone claiming to be from PCH and are asked to send money, pay a fee or pre-pay taxes to enter, collect or claim a sweepstakes prize, you have not heard from the PCH. The call you received was most likely from a fraudulent sweepstakes scam operation.

You do not have to give out your bank account number, driver’s license number, social security number or any other confidential information when you enter. You might have to fill out an affidavit to verify edibility if you win, but not when you enter.

A check also does not mean you’ve won. There is a popular scam in which an individual receives a check and the company asks you to send back some of the money. Those checks aren’t legitimate and if you cash them or deposit them into your account, you are responsible for the amount of money they are written for.

If you have already been contacted and sent money to a PCH scammer, contact your local law enforcement office.

These cases are hard to investigate, because they rarely originate locally,” said Palestine Police Chief Mark Harcrow. “Many originate from overseas and use false or spoofed phone numbers.”

Although they are difficult to pursue, Harcrow said, victims of phone-scams should report them to the authorities.

Representatives from PCH also want to know about any scam you incur using their name. They have instituted a telephone and online “scam hotline,” where potential winners can check the validity of their prize and report attempted fraud. To report, or inquire about a possible PCH scam, call 1-800-392-4190.

If you’ve already been duped, you will need to be extra cautious in the future. Scammers consider people they have already manipulated to be easy prey and will try to target you again.

Always keep the old adage of ‘if something is too good to be true, it probably is,’ in mind.

Never reveal any personal information on the telephone, under any circumstances. Do not agree to pay any upfront taxes or fees for promised sweepstakes winnings. Do not wire money or allow someone to come to your home to pick up money. Never tell anyone you don’t know that you live alone.

Give to reputable charities only. The safest approach when giving to victims of a natural disaster is to go with one of the big, established groups, like Red Cross.

Report an internet or telemarketing scam to the National Fraud Information Center at 202-835-3323 or www.fraud.org

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