Reminder: There Are No Fees To Claim Your Prize When You Win The Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes

pchThe day has finally come — you’ve won the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes! At least, that’s what the guy on the phone is telling you. But don’t send your thanks to the ghost of Ed McMahon just yet: if someone is telling you to fork over huge wads of cash in order to claim your prize from PCH, it’s a scam and you should hang up the phone and start hoping anew.

An 88-year-old PCH loyalist living in Pittsburgh thought her big moment was finally upon her when she got a call from a man who said he was Dave Sayer of the PCH Prize Patrol, and that she’d won $3 million. Sayer is a real person, and one that the widow is very familiar with: she’s been entering the sweepstakes dutifully for almost a decade, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

It sounded right to her, as the day she got the call, PCH was set to announce who had won $7,000 a week for life.

“He tells me he’s Dave Sayer from Publishers Clearing House,” she told the paper. “I believed him because I recognized the name from some of the Publishers Clearing House letters.”

So when the man on the phone said she had to wire $500 in fees to North Carolina in order to collect her winnings (including a 2016 Mercedes Benz), she figured that was just part of the routine. Then she sent $500 to Orlando to cover taxes, as well.

But the man on the phone was relentless, asking her for an additional $15,000 to cover personal income taxes on the prize.

“He really made it sound like it was for a good purpose,” she said, noting that after all, “You don’t get nothing for nothing.”

She was told to mail the $15,000 in cash, wrapped in newspaper (a huge red flag) and secured in a double envelope. She got a cash advance from a credit card to cover the funds. Once the money was mailed, she received yet another phone call, now demanding $22,000. The man told her to use all her credit cards and get advances, and at this point, she finally refused.

Though he tried several more times to contact her, she says she stopped answering the phone. She’s now given away $16,000.

“Obviously it’s a horrible story,” a spokesman for Publishers Clearing House told the Post-Gazette. “It’s one we are hearing, unfortunately, on a more frequent basis.”

Though she was at first ashamed to even tell her family she’d been scammed, she finally reported the fraud to AARP, the Social Security Administration and the U.S. Postal Service, and filed a complaint with her local police.

After all that, she realized the scammer had been calling her from an area code in Jamaica… and billing the calls to her number. That could make it hard to catch the villain.

“The challenge [in catching the culprits] is that most of the scammers are not operating from the United States,” the PCH spokesman said. “That makes it much more difficult for law enforcement to make arrests and get extraditions.”

If you’re ever unsure if you’ve actually won a big prize, know that any legitimate sweepstakes, contest or lottery doesn’t require winners to pay any taxes, insurance, handling or shipping charges or any other fees to collect a prize upfront. Never. Not for any reason. You might have to declare winnings on tax returns, but that’s it.

“If they are asking for money, it’s not real,” the PCH spokesman noted. PCH doesn’t contact winners by phone, either, so keep waiting for that Prize Patrol to show up to your doorstep, or, for smaller prizes, look for a notice by certified mail.

For Pittsburgh woman, dedication to Publishers Clearing House begat nightmare [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]

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