By Robb Hicken/ BBB’s chief storyteller
The 81-year-old grandmother in Grandview, Idaho, was in the worst of ways. She’d taken in her fifty-something daughter who was ill, the bills were stacking up, and it seemed that it was going down hill fast.
Then, the call came.
“’You’ve not won the main sweepstakes,’ he told me, ‘But, you’ve won the second place in the drawing,” Pauline says. “I spoofed him off, I told him don’t be stupid and was very rude. I told him, ‘Nobody wins this anymore.’”
But, after talking with him for a while longer, he convinced her that she was going to be receiving a check for $495,000 as a runner-up. She’d only have to pay $1,900 in taxes.
“I still didn’t believe him,” she says. “But a little bit later, the FBI called and said I’d have to pay taxes, because the amount was too much to allow in Idaho.
Publisher’s Clearing House does not call or email winners. This scenario is certainly a dream come true for many people, but the odds of any person winning up the PCH Sweepstakes are 1 in 1,750,000,000. Key to this is, if you don’t recall ever entering the sweepstakes, the odds just don’t exist.
It wasn’t until the FBI called her, that she knew the PCH Sweepstakes would be awarded. She went to banker immediately, and was told had been hoodwinked. By then, the damage had been done.
PCH Consumer affairs spokeswoman Margaret Crossan says many consumers are looking for new and different ways to make ends meet and may be tempted to believe an off they would otherwise not even consider.
“Don’t believe it,” she says. “At Publisher’s Clearing House – as with any legitimate sweepstakes company – the winning is always free.”
Most scammers will tell consumers to wire money via a money-transfer service. Con artists want wire transfers because it’s virtually impossible to trace. Wiring money is like sending cash; once it’s gone, it’s usually gone.
In Pauline’s case, she had sent $11,680 to cover taxes, insurance and special handling fees.
During the course of three weeks, she spoke with two people supposedly from PCH corporate offices, Zachary Green and Jolee McGlendez, and Daniel Burk in the FBI office in New York City.
“In the last phone call, I asked them, ‘I just want to know why you picked me, an 81-year-old lady to scam,” Pauline says. “I’m just a poor old lady.”
The scammers assured her she would get a check in the mail, and right enough, she received a check for $5000. When she took it to the bank, the banker told her it was stolen check and if she cashed it, it would bounce.
To top it off, a week and a half ago, Pauline was bitten by a spider and still suffers from paralysis in her arm.
“You don’t believe this stuff, but you want to so badly when you’ve been desperate all your life,” she says. “Just a sucker. It was just too good to be true.”