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Publisher’s Clearing House calls flood Snake River Region; Burley woman avoids scam

A Burley woman is a recent target of a scam that promised $250,000 through the Publishers Clearing House.

“Skepticism is probably the best response,” Todd Dvorak, communications director at the Idaho Attorney General’s office, told the Times-News. “There are 101 varieties of scams out there. We haven’t had any other reports yet about this type of thing, but it’s never a good idea to send money or personal information.”

Scammers pretending to be Publishers Clearing House, contacted Burley resident Donna Weech telling her they needed her to pay attorney fees. Once paid the winnings would be released to her. They asked her to purchase a Green Dot Money Pak card for $205, telling her a PCH representative would be by to pick up the card after  a second phone call. Fortunately, Weech’s daughter-in-law was available to talk her into not buying the card.

Better Business Bureau has received phone calls almost daily since the beginning of March when PCH sends out its spring mailing, and the scammers know this and immediately beginning calling, trying to convince Snake River Region residents they are winners.  Last year, BBB reported on a similar incident. You can always check at bbb.org or call 800-218-1001 if you’re suspicious.

Publishers Clearing House officials state they will never call on the phone announcing winners, and will never ask for fees. There is “no purchase necessary” to enter the PCH Sweepstakes.

Tips to identify a fake PCH sweepstakes are found at pch.com.

  • Prize winners will not call by phone or by regular mail. Consumers who win over $10,000 will be awarded in person by the PCH Prize Patrol, with no advance notification. Those who win less than $10,000 will receive an affidavit via certified mail. Additionally, PCH does send out post cards and mailings promoting their services and surveys.
  • At the real Publishers Clearing House, the winning is always free. Do not send or wire any money to collect the prize. Don’t trust anyone requesting payment for “taxes,” “custom fees,” “border security” or other purported reasons.
  • If suspicious of a fraudulent call, letter, e-mail or check from someone claiming to be from Publishers Clearing House, contact the real PCH at 1-800-645-9242 then press 5.

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PCH Sweepstakes scammers use fake FTC, FBI calls for credibility

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.”

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