Who wouldn't love to be that winner you see on TV holding a great big sweepstakes check? That's what con artists are counting on when they claim to be with the Publishers Clearing House. This trick is an oldie but goodie for scammers.
The scam starts with a call or letter saying you've won the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes (or some other similarly named contest). But to collect your prize, they say, you need to send money to pay for fees and taxes. Typically you'll be asked to send money by Western Union or MoneyGram, or by getting a reloadable card or gift card. Scammers ask you to pay these ways because it's nearly impossible to trace the money - and you'll almost never get it back.
But that's not the only way scammers get your money with this scam. Some will send you a realistic-looking fake check for a large dollar amount in the mail. You are told that, to claim your prize, you need to deposit the check in your bank account. You are told to write a check on your bank account and send some of the money back for made-up expenses. But when the check you deposited bounces - even after it seemed to clear - you may be on the hook for the money you sent to the scammers.
If you think you have won a prize, here are a few things to know:
- Never give any of your bank account information to someone you don't know.
- Never deposit a large unexpected check you received purporting to be from Publishers Clearing House into your bank account.
- Never send money to collect a prize, sweepstakes check, or lottery winnings.
- The real Publishers Clearing House says it will never ask you to pay a fee to collect a prize
If anyone calls asking you to pay for a prize, hang up and report it to the Federal Trade Commission
or FAX 877-9135.