Better Business Bureau is warning the public to beware of letters supposedly from Publishers Clearing House which claim that they have won a grand prize drawing of $1 million. Despite how official the letters might look, the recipient is the target of a widespread scam that is seeing a sudden resurgence across the country.
“Perhaps, not surprisingly, the increased prevalence of this scam comes on the heels of the actual Publishers Clearing House awarding a New Jersey woman $5,000 a week for the rest of her life,” said Jocile Ehrlich, BBB President. “Scammers often steal their hooks from the headlines and operate in the wake of newsworthy events, such as Publishers Clearing House giving out a prize, because they know it’ll be on top of people’s minds.”
How the scam operates is that victims receive a letter supposedly from Publishers Clearing House claiming that they have won $1 million as the second place winner of a drawing sponsored by Reader’s Digest Magazine. The letter is accompanied by a check for as much as $5,900 with instructions to call the Publishers Clearing House representative listed in the letter. Over the phone, the victims are told that, in order to receive their prize, they must cash the check and then wire approximately $4,000 to Publishers Clearing House and then the rest of the winnings will be sent to them. The check, however, is fraudulent and any money wired to the scammers cannot be recovered.
Since early March, reports of the Publishers Clearing House scam have come in from 19 states including California, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Not only are letters popping up in mailboxes, but some people report receiving phone calls from scammers pretending to be with Publishers Clearing House as well.
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 the scam.