How crooks try to make Publishers Clearing House scam seem authentic: Internet Scambusters #819
At one time or another probably every one of us has received a mailing from Publishers Clearing House announcing that we may be in line for a big prize.
That's why scammers have homed in on the famous organization's name as a front for a fake lottery trick.
Even so, it's easy to spot the scam by just identifying one key request the crooks make, as we explain in this week's issue.
Let's check out today's...
One Simple Rule Will Foil Publishers Clearing House Scammers
Did you ever receive a letter from Publishers Clearing House (PCH) announcing that you might have won one of its big prize draws?
Maybe you thought it was a scam. But if the letter only said you might have won, it was likely genuine. You probably didn't win though.
It was actually a come-on to encourage you to sign up for some kind of offer. And, if genuine, it was backed by a genuine lottery drawing with real-prize winners, though the odds of winning a significant prize are quite small.
PCH is one of the few organizations that send out legitimate prize draw notifications and, because of that, it's a name that scammers love to use. People trust it.
Every year, thousands of Americans hand over hundreds of millions of dollars to crooks in the belief they've won a lottery or sweepstake. Globally, the crime is said to net more than $12 billion a year.
Despite efforts to publicize these scams, large numbers of people still fall for the trick, agreeing to pay advance fees supposedly to cover processing charges or taxes.
This is exactly what happens with the Publishers Clearing House. But sometimes the crooks try to make it seem even more authentic by sending a dud check in the mail, telling victims to bank it and then wire part of the money back to pay the fees (before the check bounces).
The crime is so rampant that both consumer groups and PCH themselves have issued warnings to try to head off the scammers.
The crooks have even tried to add another touch of realism by using the well-known names of employees that are used in genuine prize draws.
"Recently we've been hearing reports that scammers are accessing and using the names of our real PCH employees in their criminal attempts to deceive you," the firm explains. "Names you've come to know and recognize such as Dave Sayer, Todd Sloane, and Danielle Lam - all real members of our famous PCH Prize Patrol.
"Even the name of Deborah Holland, our Executive Vice President whose name appears in PCH promotional mailers, has been hijacked and illegally used by scammers."
The trouble is that people are so desperate to believe they really have won, that they suspend their commonsense thinking. This is particularly the case with older folk, who tend to be more trusting.
And scammers are good at winning their victims' trust, sometimes phoning them several times a day to establish a good relationship before even mentioning the "fees" you have to pay.
Yet, one simple rule is all you need to follow to avoid these crooks: Never pay them.
"At PCH the winning is always free, and you never have to pay to claim a prize\0x2026" the firm adds.
"If someone contacts you claiming to be from PCH and tells you that you've won a prize -- then asks you to send a payment or money card in order to claim the prize -- STOP. You have not heard from the real PCH."
In fact, the only legitimate lotteries you have to pay are government ones -- and then you're paying upfront for your tickets (and taxes later on if you win).
Of course, that doesn't stop the scammers from pretending to be from the government and claiming you won, even though your ticket says otherwise. In that case, they tell you you've been awarded a special, unpublicized prize. There's no such thing.
Even PCH makes clear in its promotional mailings that taking up and paying for the offer that came with the mailing doesn't increase your chances of winning.
If a request for some kind of payment isn't enough to signal a scam for you, here are five other warning signs of a lottery scam:
- If you didn't buy a ticket, you didn't win. In the case of PCH, you may be given a draw number you didn't ask for but, as the firm says, you will never be asked to pay for it.
- If the notification uses poor English or a phone caller has a strong foreign accent, it's likely a scam.
- If you're told not to mention your win to others because of confidentiality rules, it's likely a scam.
- If they ask for your bank account details so they can supposedly wire your prize directly to your account, it's a scam. Legitimate lotteries don't operate that way. The information you give to the scammer will be used for identity theft.
- If you're given another number you're supposed to call to verify your win, it's likely a scam. Find the real number of the supposed awarding organization online and call them to check. The number for the real PCH is 1-800-392-4190.
For more information about the Publishers Clearing House lottery scam, check the firm's anti-fraud page. There are also a couple of useful videos on the site.
Alert of the Week
Okay, you didn't win the lottery but how about a few hundred thousand dollars' worth of consolation from the United Nations?
The news comes in a fake email notification that claims you've qualified for a compensation award of $400,000 through "the 2018 United Nations (UN) Compensation Category 'B' Awards in connection with the FBI for security and verification purposes."
Quite the mouthful, though we're not quite sure what it means -- beyond signaling an out-and-out scam.
The message asks victims to provide certain personal information and provides a clickable link. It's not clear what happens next. Could be a prelude to identify theft, a link to malware or an advance fee scam.
Just ditch it.
That's all for today -- we'll see you next week.