(WAFB) - The Better Business Bureau (BBB) says scammers are posing as Publishers Clearing House (PCH) and sending unsuspecting victims what appears to be official checks as part of an elaborate scheme to steal money from others.
One version of the scam begins with correspondence that appears to be from Publishers Clearing House which states the victim has won millions of dollars or another high-value prize.
“It’s complete with official seals and contact information for the contest organizer,” wrote a BBB representative in an alert about the scam. “It typically lists affiliation with legitimate organizations, such as Better Business Bureau, the IRS, the FDIC, and major retailers.”
Further examination of the correspondence reveals the victim is responsible for paying shipping and handling, insurance, taxes, and other fees before they can claim the prize. Those “fees” are going to scammers, however.
“Scammers may pressure you to pay quickly, claiming that if the fees aren’t paid in this specific way and right on time, you’ll forfeit your prize money,” wrote the BBB representative.
A second version of the scam begins with the victim receiving a check for the prize money. The victim will then be pressured to deposit the check and provide a portion of the money back to the company to cover “taxes and fees.” It’ll soon become apparent the prize money never existed and the money wired to the scammer is long gone, the BBB says.
“The real Publishers Clearing House is a BBB Accredited Business with a good rating, and it never asks people to pay upfront fees for anything. The company is frequently and fraudulently mimicked by scammers because of its reputation for real prizes,” wrote the BBB representative. “Like most imposter scams, the con artists steal the good name of a legitimate company in order to fool their targets.”
TIPS TO AVOID THE SCAM
- Reach out to Publishers Clearing House: If you are contacted by a scammer impersonating PCH, report by calling (800) 392-4190. Also, PCH provides a tollfree customer service number (800-645-9242), which consumers can call at any time to check on suspicious behavior.
- Be wary of unsolicited correspondence. If you receive a notice out of the blue and can’t recall entering the contest, it’s likely a scam. Look for typos and misspellings. They are tell-tale signs of a scam.
- Never pay fees to claim a prize. You should never have to pay any fees upfront before receiving winnings. Not even taxes.
- Keep track of any contests you enter. You can’t win a contest you didn’t enter. If you often enter contests and sweepstakes, keep track of them. This will help you spot a fake contest.
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