Winners of the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes do not receive phone calls about their prizes.
Attorney General Andy Beshear wants to stress this fact as a safeguard to Kentucky seniors and consumers who are being inundated by imposters attempting to scam them out of their money.
“Our office handles scams every day,” Beshear said. “But what’s frightening about this one is that scammers have taken the identity of one of the best-known sweepstakes in our generation, Publisher’s Clearing House.”
The Attorney General’s Office of Consumer Protection has received numerous calls recently from Kentucky consumers across the Commonwealth asking about the validity of the phone calls. Consumers have reported these calls are from Jamaica (876 area code), as well as other phone numbers with area codes within various states.
“Kentuckians receiving phone calls from anyone claiming to be Publisher’s Clearing House should hang up immediately,” Beshear said. “This is the best defense against this type of scam.”
Beshear advises consumers to not be tempted to respond to the appeal of the calls based on the false hopes of winning a prize.
“A simple rule to remember is that Publisher’s Clearing House does not notify its winners over the phone,” he said.
According to the Attorney General’s Office of Consumer Protection, scammers generally inform consumers that they have won a new car, a vacation or another prize. However, in order to receive their prize, consumers are first asked for some type of payment. The most common requests are money wire transfers or the purchase of pre-paid debit cards.
“The scammers are clever in their conversations with their victims,” said Maryellen Mynear, Assistant Deputy Attorney General of the Family Branch. “They use effective mental tactics to build trust and rapport with them as they persuade them to send money. There is always a request for more money each time money is sent. Once the victim realizes the offer is bogus, it is too late. Their money is gone.”
Requesting payment upfront in order to “claim a prize” is illegal, Mynear said.
“Legitimate sweepstakes are free, and no purchase is ever necessary to enter or win a prize,” she said.
Consumers can remember these tips:
· Beware of unsolicited calls that may appear from an “876” area code or “Kingston” identifier on your caller ID. Don’t answer the call.
· Be aware that callers can “spoof” the caller ID to make it appear legitimate. This gimmick allows the scammer to trick the Caller ID display and make any number of their choosing appear on the screen—maybe within your own state or community. This also makes it more difficult for law enforcement to track them down.
· If you answer, get off the phone immediately. These scammers are experts at what they do. Their offer may sound tempting to you in a weak moment. The longer you listen, the more likely you will fall victim. Just hang up.
· If you are asked to send money for any reason to claim a prize, it is a scam.
· If you fall victim and send money, your name and information will likely be added to a “sucker list” and shared with other scammers. Your scam calls may increase as well as your junk mail.
· Tell your friends about any suspicious calls you receive. You could help prevent their being victimized as well.
Kentuckians should report these types of scams to the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-382-4357 and to the Office of the Attorney General at 888-432-9257.