BBB warns the public to beware of letters that appear to be from Publishers Clearing House announcing that you've won a grand prize drawing of $2 million or more. Despite these official-looking letters, recipients are the target of a widespread scam seeing a resurgence nationwide.
The fake notification letters follow on the heels of the legitimate Publishers Clearing House award. Not only are phony letters popping-up in mailboxes, but some people report receiving phone calls from individuals pretending to be from Publishers Clearing House as well.
How the Scam Works
The official-looking letters claim the recipient has won more than $2 million dollars and should immediately contact a PCH claims agent for further instructions on how to obtain their prize.
Some letters also include a phony check for as much as $5,900. However, to receive the prize the consumer is instructed to cash the check and wire a portion of that, up to $4,000, to Publishers Clearing House. The check ends up bouncing and, in addition to losing the wired funds, victims may have to pay penalties to their banks.
Other fake Publishers Clearing House offers come by phone or email informing recipients that funds are needed upfront to pay for insurance and other fees before the prize can be received. In this instance, consumers are instructed to put at least $400 on a Green Dot Money Pak Card from their local Walmart, Walgreens etc. and give the money card number to the "official" claims agent.
If you receive a similar letter, email or phone call from Publishers Clearing House, your BBB advises:
- Look up the PCH phone number yourself (from a trusted source such as BBB) and give them a call; PCH representatives should be able to verify if the letter you're holding is legitimate or if it's a scam.
- According to PCH, winning entrants of the contest must be located and sign an Affidavit of Eligibility within 30 days of being chosen as the winner or another entrant will be selected.
- PCH will never send out winning notices by email or phone calls. They strictly notify winners by mail or in person.
- If the phone call or letter you've receive asks for money, bear in mind that the real PCH says; "winning is always free." Consumers should never wire money to an unknown individual or company in order to receive something in return.
- While this scam predominantly takes advantage of individuals, business owners also need to be aware that their company's name could potentially be used by fraudsters to pull off this con. Fraudulent checks sent to the supposed prize winners are copies of checks from legitimate businesses that have been stolen by scammers. Business owners in Alabama, California, Kansas and West Virginia have discovered that their checks, which included their names, addresses and even account numbers, were reproduced as part of this fraud in the past.