Beware of scam using Publishers Clearinghouse name

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(CBS 5 ADVOCATE) -

They promise to arrive at your front door with a winning sweepstakes check but it isn't real. It's a scam that steals millions of dollars from people every year.

It doesn't matter how often we see the sweepstakes scam, there are still many people who don't know how it works. It's successful because it's simple and very easy to get caught up in.

Michelle Albers said her 84-year-old mother Meredith got the call everyone dreams about: "You have won from Publishers Clearinghouse $2.5 Million," said the excited voice on the line.

Albers said her mother suspected it was a scam and contacted her.

After that, Albers called the supposed prize company back, pretending to be her mother to see how she could claim the $2.5 million. They told her the prize patrol was just a half hour away and would arrive at her front door, but she'd have to do something first.

"Go to Western Union and take out a money order for $950," Albers said she was told by the person on the other end of the call.

It was supposedly a processing fee for the big prize. 

"If you've been contacted by someone who says you've won a prize but you have to send money, it's not a real prize, and it's not the real Publishers Clearinghouse," Chris Irving of Publishers Clearinghouse said.

"Publishers Clearinghouse and general sweepstakes scams have been a problem for many, many years," Todd Kossow of the Federal Trade Commission said.

In the last two years, the Federal Trade Commission has logged 250,000 complaints about scams using the Publishers Clearinghouse name, costing consumers $38 million.

"They want to believe that they won and it's sometimes hard for people like us to convince them that they haven't won," Kossow said.

Albers is glad her mother didn't fall for the scam and is telling her story so others don't either. "To prey on the elderly, it's just horrible," Albers said.

There are a thousand different ways scammers try to get your money but you have to give it to them and there are only two ways that happens.

If someone you don't know asks you wire money or load a prepaid card and read off the numbers on the back - it's a scam, 100% of the time; no exceptions. Only scammers demand payment in these two ways; that's all you need to remember.

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