Criminals using the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes as a ruse to convince consumers to pay hefty fees have been reported in the Cleveland area.
A Berea senior told BBB she was duped by a caller who claimed she had won $1 million in the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes. She was told to obtain Green Dot MoneyPak cards totaling $1,500 to pay federal taxes required to receive her prize.
She followed the instructions and gave the caller the serial numbers from the cards. The caller then claimed that an additional $4,000 was needed to cover the costs of the State Troopers who would deliver her $1 million prize. She was also told that a representative from the BBB would accompany the State Troopers.
When she seemed skeptical, the caller directed her to go to pch.com, the Publishers Clearing House website, and look at the list of Officers. He claimed to be Rick Busch, Senior Vice President.
Deciding to do what was needed to get her prize, she purchased four additional MoneyPak cards for $1,000 each and again gave the caller the serial numbers for them.
What happened next? The caller needed even more money. This time, he asked for $7,995. “When I said I didn’t have the money,” she told BBB, “he told me to borrow it. At this point, I knew this was a scam.”
Publishers Clearing House posts warnings on its website about the various frauds posting as prize notifications. In part, the warning states:
“Publishers Clearing House (PCH) does NOT make or authorize outgoing calls to consumers to sell merchandise or magazines, or to solicit contest entries. Our major winners are notified by mail or in person (at our option) and we never phone ahead to disclose that someone has won a major prize. If you receive a phone call from someone claiming to be from Publishers Clearing House and are asked to send money, pay a fee or pre-pay taxes to enter, collect or claim a sweepstakes prize - STOP - you have not heard from the “real” Publishers Clearing House. The call you received was most likely from a fraudulent sweepstakes scam operation. At Publishers Clearing House the winning is always free.”
Green Dot also warns consumers on its website:
“Don’t give your MoneyPak number to pay for something you buy through the classifieds or to collect a prize or sweepstakes. Do not give away your receipt information to another party either. If you give your MoneyPak number or information about the purchase transaction to a criminal, Green Dot is not responsible for paying you back. Your MoneyPak is not a bank account. The funds are not insured against loss.”
“Seniors and those who are cash-strapped are particularly vulnerable to telemarketing scams.” said David Weiss, president of BBB Serving Greater Cleveland. “We’ve seen an increase in the use of MoneyPak cards by criminals to get quick cash from unsuspecting victims.”
BBB reminds consumers that the Telemarketing Sales Rules requires telemarketers to tell you that you don’t have to pay a fee or buy something to win a prize or participate in a prize promotion.