PORTLAND, Ore.— You’ve probably heard of Publishers Clearing House. The sweepstakes is known for its ‘Prize Patrol,’ which surprises winners on their doorstep with an oversized check and balloons.
Dozens of consumers say scammers have been using the Publishers Clearing House name and logo to rip people off. The crooks send out official-looking letters that read “CONGRATULATIONS” and explain, “We are pleased to inform you that you are one of our lucky winners.”
A KGW investigation found last year, Oregonians lost more than $100,000 to the Publishers Clearing House scam.
“I’m a senior, 82, on a very small income – worried to death about finances and rising prices and how to take charge of Visa debt,” wrote a Wilsonville woman in a consumer complaint. “I was ripe for this.”
The woman lost $4,500 to the scam.
A review of complaints to the Oregon Attorney General’s Office last year reveals consumers over the age of 65 were targeted by the Publishers Clearing House scam. The victims lived across the state, including Klamath Falls, Corvallis, Coos Bay, Portland, Prineville and Eugene.
Individual victims lost anywhere from $200 to $44,000.
“I’m sure there are people who get this and think it is very legit and think, ‘hey, I’m going to get all of this money,’” said Mary Ellen Knipe of Rockaway Beach.
She didn’t respond to the scam after she received a bogus sweepstakes announcement.
Last year, 28 people complained to the Oregon AG’s office about the Publishers Clearing House scam.
“How did they get my name? How did they get my information?” asked Kristine Simpson of Canby.
She also received a scam letter along with a check for $9,862.50. The letter instructed her to contact a claims agent named Jon Carpenter for method of payment.
Simpson said she called the phone number and spoke with a man claiming to be Carpenter of Publishers Clearing House. He told her to deposit the check, then FedEx some of the money in cash back to him to cover taxes and fees.
“They said, ‘Big secret. Keep it confidential,’” explained Simpson, who deposited the check but didn’t send any money. A few days later the bank found the check Simpson received was from a “frozen or blocked account.”
Publishers Clearing House is aware that scammers are using its name and logo. In 2013, the company published “5 Ways to Know If It’s a Publishers Clearing House Scam!” on the company blog.
Tips included the following:
1. If you’re required to wire or pay any amount of money in order to claim a prize, it’s a Publishers Clearing House Scam.
2. If you’re asked to load up a Green Dot MoneyPak or other money transfer card in exchange for claiming your prize, it’s a Publishers Clearing House Scam.
3. If someone tries to contact you in advance regarding a prize delivery, it’s a Publishers Clearing House Scam.
4. If someone calls you on the telephone claiming to be from Publishers Clearing House and says you have won, it’s a Publishers Clearing House Scam.
5. If someone claiming to be from Publishers Clearing House tries to send you a friend request on Facebook, it’s a Publishers Clearing House Scam.