Scam of the day – March 19, 2017 – Publishers Clearing House lottery scam

It is hard to win any lottery. It is impossible to win one that you have not even entered and yet scam artists, the only criminals we refer to as artists have found that it is extremely lucrative to scam people by convincing them that they have won various lotteries. Most lottery scams involve the victim being told that they need to pay taxes or administrative fees directly to the lottery sponsor; however no legitimate lottery requires you to do so.

As with many effective scams, the pitch of the scammer seems legitimate. Income taxes are due on lottery winnings, but with legitimate lotteries they are either deducted from the lottery winnings before you receive your prize or you are responsible for paying the taxes directly to the IRS. No legitimate lottery collects taxes on behalf of the IRS from lottery winners.  Other times, the scammer tell the “winners” that in order to collect their prizes, they need to pay administrative fees. Often, the victims are told to send the fees back to the scammer by prepaid gift cards or Green Dot MoneyPak cards. Prepaid cards are a favorite of scammers because they are the equivalent of sending cash. They are impossible to stop or trace. Again, no legitimate lottery requires you to pay administrative fees in order to claim your prize.

Everyone is familiar with the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes from television commercials where the winners are shown being surprised by the delivery of their giant check. Publishers Clearing House is a real company that operates a legitimate lottery that many people enter which is one reason that scammers pose as representatives of Publishers Clearing House.   Scammers often take advantage of the fact that people are so familiar with the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes to pose as being representatives of the Publishers Clearing House to scam people out of their money.  Reports are circulating around the country of this presently occurring.  One potential victim in Alabama was contacted by phone, told that she had won the sweepstakes, but had to pay $90,000 in taxes in order to claim her prize.

Fortunately, there is an easy way to know when you are contacted by Publishers Clearing House by phone, email or text message informing you that you have won one of its multi-million dollar prizes whether you have been contacted by the real Publishers Clearing House.   Publishers Clearing House only contacts major prize winners in person or by certified or express mail. They do not contact such winners by phone, email or text message so if you do receive a notification of your winning one of their multi-million dollar prizes in this fashion you know it is a scam.   In addition, no winners of the Publishers Clearinghouse sweepstakes are ever required to make a payment of any kind to claim their prize.  As for other lotteries, remember, you can’t win a lottery you haven’t entered and no legitimate lottery asks you to pay them administrative fees or taxes.

Scam of the day – January 15, 2016 – Powerball lottery scams

By now everyone is aware that three winning tickets for the 1.6 billion dollar record Powerball lottery were sold in California, Florida and Tennessee.  However, merely because the lottery drawing has been completed, does not mean that scams related to the drawing have ended.  Year after year, lottery scams are one of the most common and profitable scams for scam artists, the only criminals we refer to as artists.  What is now happening is that people are being contacted by emails or phone messages and told that although they did not win the top prize, they did win one of the lesser prizes which can be as much as a million dollars.  The only catch is that you need to prepay administrative fees or income taxes on your winnings before your prize will be sent to you.


Because hundreds of millions of tickets were sold for this latest Powerball drawing it is a good chance that when you are contacted by a scammer posing as a Powerball lottery agent, that you may have purchased a ticket or two, however, it is important to remember that the lottery commissions that operate Powerball do not have any information as to who purchased particular tickets so if you get a call or an email from someone saying that your ticket is a winner, it is a scam.  In addition, administrative fees are never assessed as a condition of receiving a legitimate lottery prize.  As for income taxes, legitimate lotteries never collect taxes from you as a condition of claiming your prize.  Either,as Powerball does, the taxes are deducted from your prize before you receive the prize or, as some lotteries operate, the entire prize is sent to you and you are responsible for paying the taxes yourself to the IRS. Finally, it is important to remember that even if your Caller ID indicates that the call you receive is from the lottery commission, scammers can use a technique called spoofing to make it appear that their call is coming from the lottery commission when it is really coming from a scammer.

Scam of the day – October 17, 2015 – Jamaican lottery scam drives victim to suicide

Regular readers of will remember that I have written about the Jamaica lottery scam for more than three years.  Jamaica is a hot bed of phony lottery scams, victimizing unwary Americans for more than ten years.  Estimates of the amount of money lost by victims of this scam range from a low of 300 million dollars per year to as much as a billion dollars annually.  Generally they way the scam operates is that the targeted victim is told on the telephone  that he or she has won a lottery (that they never entered), but that the victim needs to pay some administrative fees before receiving the huge prize.  The victims of this scam pay the fees, which can run into thousands of dollars, but never get the prize. The telephone call generally comes from the 876 area code which is the area code for Jamaica.   Scammers in Jamaica make as many as 30,000 calls each day to the United States telling people that they have won a non-existent lottery.   Recently CNN reported about the suicide of a victim of the Jamaican lottery scam, Albert Poland Jr. who killed himself  as a result of the stress related to the lottery scam in which he was constantly harassed by scammers seeking more and more money.  Still a believer however, in his suicide note he said he hoped he would be vindicated when his family received the 2.5 million dollar prize from Jamaica.

In the Scam of the day of May 15th I reported to you that following three days of deliberation a North Dakota jury convicted Sanjay Williams, of Montego Bay, Jamaica of conspiracy, wire fraud and money laundering charges related to the Jamaican lottery scam. This particular case was four years in the making and started when an 86 year old North Dakota widow, Edna Schmeets lost her entire life’s savings of $300,000 to Jamaican scammers who telephoned her and told her that she had won a 19  million dollar Jamaican lottery, but that she needed to pay taxes and fees before she could claim her prize.  Sentencing of Williams has been delayed to give Mr. Williams time to consider cooperating with investigators about others involved in return for a lesser sentence.  Williams faces a maximum of forty years in prison


As I have often told you, it is difficult to win a lottery you have entered.  It is impossible to win one that you have not even entered.  You should always be skeptical about being told that you have won a lottery you never entered.    In regard to the Jamaican lottery scam, I urge you not to pick up the phone if your Caller ID shows the 876 area code.  Don’t establish any relationship with these scammers.  They will hound you if you do.  It is also important to remember that it is illegal to play foreign lotteries unless you are present in the other country.  While it is true that income taxes are owed on lottery winnings, legal lotteries never collect tax money from winners.  They either deduct the taxes from the winnings or leave it up to the winners to pay their taxes directly to the IRS.  You also should never pay a fee to collect a legal lottery prize.