Publishers Clearing House, the sponsor of some of the most popular legitimate lotteries in the country no longer limits its contests to one or two a year, but has numerous lotteries each month. Recently there has been an increase in reports of scammers calling people on the telephone and telling them that they have won one of the Publishers Clearing House lotteries, but that they have to pay fees or taxes before being able to claim their prize. In addition there are reports of targeted victims receiving phony notifications by regular mail that they have won a Publishers Clearing House lottery, but that again they must pay fees or taxes before being able to receive their prize. Recently, a 91 year old woman in Missouri lost $250,000 to this type of scam. The scam started in November of 2019 when the scam victim was told on the phone that she had won 4 million dollars in a Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes. However, she was told that before she could claim her prize, she needed to pay Publishers Clearing House the income taxes owed on the prize. Repeatedly from November through February she sent check after check with payments that she thought were to be applied to taxes on her phony winnings. It wasn’t until her son and daughter in law became aware of what happened that they convinced her to stop sending money to the scammers.
It is hard to win any lottery. It is impossible to win one that you have not even entered and yet scam artists have found that it is extremely lucrative to scam people by convincing them that they have won various lotteries. With so many people entered into the Publishers Clearing House lotteries, it is easier for scammers to convince people that they have won.
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.
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 major 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 regular mail. They do not contact winners by phone, email or text message so if you do receive a notification of your winning one of their major multi-million dollar prizes by those means of communication 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 so if you are told that you have won, but are required to make any kind of payment before you can claim your prize, you can be sure that it is a scam. 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.
Even if the Caller ID on your phone indicates the call is actually from Publishers Clearing House, it is very easy for a scammer to use a technique called “spoofing” to make it appear that the call is coming from Publishers Clearing House rather than the scammer who is really making the call. Trust me, you can’t trust anyone.
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