The Better Business Bureau is warning the public to beware of letters that appear to be from Publishers Clearing House and claim the recipient has won a grand prize drawing of $2 million or more. Despite these official-looking letters, recipients are the target of a widespread scam that is seeing a resurgence across the country.
The fake notification letters follow on the heels of a legitimate Publishers Clearing House award. Not only are 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 letters appear to come from Publishers Clearing House and display the official PCH logo. The letters claim the recipient has won over $2 million dollars and instructs consumers to immediately contact a PCH claim agent for further instructions on how to claim their prize winnings.
Some letters also include a check for as much as $5,900 and instructions to call a claims agent named in the fake letter. In order to receive the prize, the consumer is then instructed to cash the check and wire a portion of that, up to $4,000, to Publishers Clearing House in order to receive the rest of the winnings. The check is fraudulent and any money sent by wire transfer cannot be recovered. The check ends up bouncing and the victims also may have to pay penalties to their bank.
Other fake Publishers Clearing House offers come by phone or email and claim funds are needed in advance to pay for insurance before winnings 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 before winnings will be delivered.
The BBB recommends the following advice if you receive a similar letter, email or phone call from Publishers Clearing House:
One of the easiest things to do is to look up the PCH phone number (from a trusted source like BBB) and give them a call; representatives from Publishers Clearing House should be able to verify if the letter 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 received 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.
The fraudulent checks sent to the supposed prize winners with the letter are copies of checks from legitimate businesses which have been stolen by the scammers. Businesses located in Alabama, California, Kansas and West Virginia have discovered that their checks--which included their name, address and even account number--were reproduced as part of this fraud in the past.