BBB: Phony letters, checks part of nationwide sweepstakes scheme

The Better Business Bureau is warning the public to beware of letters that appear to have been sent from Publishers Clearing House and which claim the recipient has won a prize of $1 million.

The BBB says despite how convincing the letters look, they are actually part of a widespread scheme targeting consumers nationwide.Justify Full
The BBB says the rising popularity of the scheme comes on the heels of the real Publishers Clearing House awarding a New Jersey woman a prize of $5,000/week for the rest of her life.

Experts say scammers take their con game cues from the headlines knowing the subject will be top of mind.

The current scheme involves a letter, purportedly from Publishers Clearing House claiming the recipient has won $1 million as the second place winner of a drawing sponsored by Reader’s Digest.

The letter is accompanied by a check for as much as $5,900 with instructions to call the Publishers Clearing House Representative listed in the letter.

When victims call the number they are told that in order to receive their prize they must cash the check and then wire approximately $4,000 to Publishers Clearing House and that the rest of the winnings will be sent to them. The BBB, however, says the check is a fraud and any money wired cannot be recovered.

Since March reports of the scheme have been reported in 19 states including California, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin. In some cases people have not just received letters, but also phone calls from representatives pretending to be with Publishers Clearing House.

While individuals are the target of the scheme, the BBB warns business owners that their company’s name could be used to pull off the con. The fraudulent checks being sent to the “prize winners” are copies of checks stolen from legitimate businesses.


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