Cleveland Area Seniors Targeted by Publishers Clearing House Impostors

August 22, 2014

sweepstakes imageContact:Sue A. McConnell (216) 623-8960

For Immediate Release - August 21, 2014 - The Publishers Clearing House impostors have come back in full force in the Cleveland area and are targeting older consumers.

A 72- year old Euclid woman lost $1800 this past week to a telemarketer who falsely claimed to represent the well known Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes.  The caller, “Robert Shapiro”, told the woman she had won $2.5 million and a new car.   She was first told to send a $500 money order to a Georgia address.  After she sent it, they called again asking for an additional $455 for “FDIC insurance”  to be paid using a Green Dot MoneyPak card. She again complied.  Next, she sent a second money order to the same Georgia address for $860 to insure her new car.  She called Better Business Bureau when the next call demanded $6,000 to pay for the taxes on her prize.

BBB has received other calls from area seniors in the past few weeks all with the same scenario. In late June, another senior told BBB she received a call from Frank Nelson who told her she had won $400,000.00 from Publishers Clearing House. Nelson stated that William Hardy from Federal Trade Commission  was going to call her to verify her winnings.  Hardy told  her to wire $1800 via Western Union in order to get her money. That call was followed by someone claiming to be with the Washington, DC Better Business Bureau who asked for her checking account and check routing numbers claiming BBB was going to reimburse her for the $1800 she sent.

Publishers Clearing House is often used in this scam since it is a well known sweepstakes.   Victims often receive multiple calls from people claiming to represent various agencies (IRS, FBI, even BBB) with each caller claiming fees must be paid in order to receive the prize.  Payments have typically been made via wire transfers, Green Dot MoneyPak cards and other pre-loaded debit cards.  At times, victims are asked to put cash inside a magazine and mail the magazine to another party.

Victims become “Money Mules” -  Victims who no longer have any money to pay the fees, but still believe they are going to win a prize, are unwittingly recruited to be part of the scam.  The victim becomes a “money mule” and agrees to forward payments to the scam telemarketers - money obtained from other victims of the sweepstakes scam.  

If a telemarketer calls you and claims you have won a prize, be aware:

  • It is illegal to require the payment of a fee or purchase of a product to receive a prize. Never wire money, obtain preloaded debit cards (e.g. Green Dot MoneyPak cards), or mail cash for any reason.

  • The FBI, FTC, BBB, IRS, and other agencies do not get involved in the promotion of sweepstakes.

  • Telemarketers sometimes have personal information about you, (name, address, etc), which can make their calls seem legitimate.

Seniors are vulnerable to this scam and some have lost their homes and life savings to telemarketing scams.  BBB encourages consumers to share this warning with their older parents, friends and neighbors.