November 7, 2011 —
District Attorney Jim Farrell is warning seniors and all residents of Sullivan County about a phone scam that has been making its way around the county recently. The scam works like this, and has been used before: the homeowner receives a call from someone representing themselves as a representative of Publisher’s Clearing House and advises them that they have won a substantial prize, usually in the millions of dollars. The caller directs the “winner” to a local Wal-Mart where they can purchase a green dot money package or money order, telling victims they must first wire and pay taxes or other fees out of the advance check, before they can claim the rest of the prize.
District Attorney Farrell says, “Don’t believe it! At any legitimate sweepstakes company – the winning is always free and a winner need not send any money whatsoever. Publisher’s Clearing House is a legitimate sweepstakes company and the criminal uses their well recognized name to defraud the victim.”
In fact, Publisher’s Clearing House suggests the following tips to avoid being scammed:
1. If someone sends you a check and asks you to send money back in return, don’t! – If you are told you have won a prize and are asked to cash a check and send or wire money back, do not! The check is a fake. Legitimate sweepstakes will never ask you to pay a fee to claim a prize.
2. If the company name sounds familiar or legitimate and you assume you can trust it, think again! – Scammers oftentimes use the names of legitimate companies in an attempt to deceive and gain consumers trust. Criminals will pretend to be affiliated with well-known, recognized and trusted brand names. Always contact the legitimate company and talk to one of their representatives.
3. If someone asks you to wire money to claim a sweepstakes prize, don’t! – Most scammers will advise consumers to wire money via a money-transfer service. Con-artists want money sent to them via a money-transfer service because it’s quick, it’s cash and it’s virtually impossible to trace and recover. Wiring money is like sending cash and once it’s gone, it’s usually gone.
The area code on the numbers used recently in Sullivan County comes back to the State of California (area code 805), but that is not the determinative fact that the call is fraudulent as many of these scams are nationwide. Farrell says the rule of thumb is as follows: “If you are asked to send or wire money in any manner in order to claim a prize you are being scammed. Hang up on the caller, record their phone number if you have caller ID and refer them to your local law enforcement.”