A slip in judgment was costly for 74-year-old Alice.
Publishers Clearing House, headquartered in Port Washington, N.Y., is a leading multichannel direct marketer of consumer products and magazines. It is most widely known for sweepstakes, and its reputation makes it a prime target for scam artists to clone the name.
Everyone dreams of winning a Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes, but in most cases, prize notifications coming through the mail are nothing more than attempts to steal your money.
Alice, who has entered the sweepstakes numerous times online, says she was gleefully surprised when she received a letter in the mail notifying her she’d been selected to receive $650,000 in a Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes.
“Who wouldn’t want to win that much money?” she said in an interview.
Sweepstakes scams have cheated people nationwide out of millions of dollars in recent years. The cheating comes when people put too much faith in strangers in the belief they will win large sums of money or expensive vehicles and prizes.
Alice said that when she called the 800 phone number to confirm, a man named John Parker celebrated with her over the phone.
“He was very polite, enthusiastic and friendly,” she says. “He didn’t sound like a con artist.”
When Parker instructed her to prepare two packets of cash to pay for processing and insurance fees, Alice did not recognize the warning signs. The instructions were to place the cash inside two magazines, place the magazines inside a manila envelope, and then mail each to a separate address.
Alice did as she was instructed and prepared two packets, for two attorneys in Vancouver, B.C. When she called Parker on his cell and let him know the money was on its way, he seemed excited.
“I took a $3,000 cash advance on two different credit cards to get the money to send,” Alice explained. “I took the rest of it out of my savings.”
In all, Alice mailed $12,000 in cash to Canada. By the time she repays the bank and covers high interest rates on two credit cards, she will have lost more than $20,000.
The BBB office in Boise receives between 10 and 20 phone calls a week from people asking about lottery or sweepstakes notifications. Often the callers cannot believe they are being scammed.
Alice said she felt gullible and dumb for having been duped. “I guess I’ll never see that money again,” she said. “I’m just glad the account manager at my bank helped me straighten this out.”
Æ Nearly all mail notifications of lottery and sweepstakes winnings are fraudulent.
Æ You should never send cash to receive winnings from a lottery or sweepstakes.
Æ Never wire money. Wire transfers are like cash and cannot be recovered.
Æ Be suspicious of winning something you never bought a ticket for or entered.
Æ Foreign lotteries are illegal. Check the postage on the envelope, and if it is a foreign stamp, throw the letter away.
Robb Hicken, 208-947-2115