Publishers Clearing House warns the public about scammers

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – In August, Rita May of Richmond, Missouri, said an email appeared in her inbox saying she was chosen out of 400,000 people to win a $3.5 million raffle prize, along with a new car, through. Publisher Clearing House (PCH). Direct marketing companies promote merchandise and magazine subscriptions with prize-based sweepstakes and games.

Curious whether the gift was legitimate or not, Mei, 67, said she called the number listed in the email.

“He just explained that I will get that money, plus a Mercedes Benz SUV, I think in 2022,” he said. “He even wanted me to choose the color of the Mercedes Benz.”

May said she was excited at first.

“There was a glimmer of hope, like, ‘Oh my gosh, this must be real,'” she says.

But then, he came to the realization that someone was trying to scam him.

“He’s like, ‘Okay, you have to like, CVS or some other place that makes cash cards and get a $1,000 cash card ready for us because when we present this prize to you, you have to present us a $1,000 cash card to get the prize ,'” said May.

May said she was skeptical and expressed her concerns to the man on the phone.

That’s when May said he became aggressive.

“He kept calling me back, pushing me hard,” she said.

Christopher Irving, vice president of consumer, government, legal affairs and communications in PCH, said that legitimate sweepstakes never ask prize winners to pay money in order to receive their winnings.

“If anyone hears that, hang up the phone, delete the social media post, change the letter,” Irving said. “You’ve never heard from Publishers Clearing House or a legitimate sweepstakes because if you win a prize, you don’t have to pay anything.”

Problem Solvers called May’s contact phone number, which is listed in Los Angeles, California, but the person suddenly hung up on us. When Problem Solvers tried to call again, just two hours later, the line was disconnected.

“I want to remind people, especially the elderly, especially people with early onset dementia,” May said. “If they get a call like this and it’s not on the level because the Issuers Clearing House, if it’s on the level, they just show up at your house with a bunch of balloons.”

“They didn’t call you before, and the fact that I got that email from them, I’ve never gotten an email from anyone that looked authentic.”

Am I being scammed?

Irving said it was unsurprising that the email May received looked authentic because scammers will do what they can to fool people into thinking the offer is reliable.

“We started our raffle in 1967 and since then, we have given away more than $560 million to customers all over the country, so our brand is well known, our reputation is known, people realize that we really give money, and that’s because. of that,” he said. “As I said at the beginning, the scammers will use our name and they will try to put other names as well to establish that legitimacy.”

The letter that May received had logos from the Treasury Department, the Internal Revenue Service, the Better Business Bureau, Bank of America, and even appeared to be signed by PCH’s senior vice president.

“Obviously, it’s caused a lot of concern, certainly for consumers who are harmed, certainly for our brand as well,” Irving said.

PCH does not contact individuals who win prize money greater than $10,000. They appear unannounced to present the winners with their earnings.

“If you’ve won the top prize at Publishers Clearing House, we won’t tell you ahead of time,” Irving said. “We show up unannounced with our prize patrol, like you see on TV, we show up on your doorstep or we track you at work or we track people in many different places and give you a big check, like you . watch it on TV.”

Irving said if a scammer tries to contact you, the best thing you can do is end the conversation quickly because the second someone pays a scammer, they keep coming back for more.

“Once you start sending money, you are in line, unfortunately, for long and long phone calls, not only from these people, but maybe from others because these scam artists will put consumers on several lists,” he said. Irving.

May said he’s noticed an influx of scam calls coming in, with some claiming to be individuals with PCH, while others say they use UPS.

“I don’t know why my number seems to be showing up with these people,” she said.

Irving said it’s possible that scammers targeted May, just because she answered the phone.

“Don’t answer and hang up, because once you hang up and really show no interest, these people will leave you alone,” he said.

Where do I report fraud?

If you or someone you know has lost money to someone claiming to be with PCH, we recommend filing a consumer complaint with Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Irving said PCH maintains its own database, which it shares with the FTC and law enforcement, so residents can also report a scam online at or through their toll-free number (800) 645-9242.

He said PCH is aware of scammers using his name and is actively working with law enforcement to try and put a stop to those who prey on PCH customers.

“The scammers, they know the right thing to say,” he said. “They prey on these people’s emotions.”

“This is what they do, unfortunately, for a living, so they know the script to try to get people sucked into this but whatever they say, if they ask for money or gift cards or financial information, it’s not real. It’s a gift. It’s not from us, not from a valid vote, it doesn’t work that way.”

PCH’s website has more information about its sweepstakes scams fraud protection.

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