Most of us have seen the commercials on TV where Publishers Clearing House has surprised an unsuspecting family with balloons and a big check written for millions of dollars. The family breaks out in happy tears and exclaims how fortunate they are and how this is going to change their lives forever. Advertisements like these are exactly why scammers have decided to call consumers posing as someone who works with Publishers Clearing House. Publishers Clearing House will never call you ahead to say you’ve won.
The Better Business Bureau of North Alabama receives dozens of calls a week from consumers saying they’ve been contacted by Publishers Clearing House claiming they’ve won anywhere from a couple of thousand dollars to a few million dollars. However, there’s a catch – the consumers must first send money to receive the money they’ve “won”. The money that is demanded be sent is supposed to cover all the so-called fees and taxes that the Publishers Clearing House is “required to pay”. Paying to collect a prize is a scam – every time, no matter if it’s the Publishers Clearing House or another play-to-win scam. Anytime you’re asked to send money via Western Union, MoneyGram, prepaid card or gift card it should be a major red flag. The scammers request these forms of payment because they are nearly impossible to trace and you will almost never get your money back.
To spot a prize scam, consider the following:
- You must pay. Legitimate sweepstakes don’t make you pay a fee or buy something to enter or improve your chances of winning — that includes paying “taxes,” “shipping and handling charges,” or “processing fees” to get your prize. There’s also no reason to give someone your checking account number or credit card number in response to a sweepstakes promotion.
- You must wire money. You may be told to wire money to an agent of “Lloyd’s of London” or another well-known company — often in a foreign country — to “insure” delivery of the prize. Wiring money is like sending cash: once it’s gone, you can’t trace it or get it back. The same goes for sending a check or money order by overnight delivery or courier, or putting money on a prepaid debit card.
- You’re required to deposit a check they’ve sent you. When you do, they’ll ask you to wire a portion of the money back. The check will turn out to be a fake, and you will owe the bank any money you withdrew.
- They claim they’re from the government or another organization name that sounds official. The FTC doesn’t oversee sweepstakes, and no federal government agency or legitimate sweepstakes company will contact you to ask for money so you can claim a prize. If you’re unsure, contact the real companies to find out the truth.
- You get a call out of the blue. Once you register your phone number for free at donotcall.gov, unwanted telemarketing calls should stop within 30 days. Unless the company falls under one of the exemptions, it shouldn’t be calling: it’s illegal.