Magazine 'grand prize' scam reported locally

Local residents are being warned that scammers falsely representing the Publishers Clearing House are calling with news that the they have won a large sum of money or expensive gift. In return they ask the "winner" to mail in a check so the prize can be delivered. PCH want people to know that the company has no part in the scam and that they 1) never give a winner advanced notice that they have won a prize; 2) never require a check be sent in to be eligible for a prize; and 3) never contact winners by phone, letter, email or social media.

A number of St. Francois County residents have been contacted in recent weeks by a man claiming to represent the Publishers Clearing House. He has some great news for them — they are the grand prize winner of a large sum of cash, a luxury automobile, and in some cases, both.

There’s just one catch …

The lucky winners need to mail him a check — usually for just under $1,000 — so that the winnings can be delivered to their homes. What’s a few hundred dollars after all when thousands and thousands of dollars are at stake, right?

Well, what’s at stake is the hard-earned money of honest but gullible people who are in danger of being ripped off by perpetrators of a scam taking place across the country.

Danielle Lam of Publishers Clearing House warns consumers not to be taken in by criminals who more than anything else want to separate them from the money deposited in their bank accounts.

“PCH does not operate this way and would never ask for money to claim a prize award,” she said. "Our employees would never contact you personally or in advance to notify you of a prize award. Our prize awards are presented just the way you see in our TV commercials — ‘live and in person’ by our Prize Patrol, with balloons, bouquet of roses and check in hand — and with no advance notification.”

Lam said scammers use any means available — mail, telephone, the Internet, email or even social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

“Whatever the method of contact, their main goal is to deceive you into believing you’ve won a prize award and need to send a pre-payment to claim that prize. Don’t fall for it. Remember to stay protected and don’t fall victim. If the prize isn’t free and you’re expected to send some type of payment to claim it, you’re being scammed.”

Luckily, the people who’ve contacted the Daily Journal in the past week were not taken in by the scam and told the caller they knew PCH wouldn’t require that money be sent in order to be eligible for a prize. Every one of the county residents said they were very concerned about the elderly being taken in by the scam and wanted people to be aware that they may be receiving a similar call.

Meanwhile, PCH is partnering with The Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. Postal Service, and local police and law enforcement officials are sharing information to help go after the scammers.

“At PCH we care about consumers and want to be sure they stay protected from scammers fraudulently pretending to be associated with our well-recognized PCH name,” Lam said. “In business for over 50 years, PCH is an iconic brand that is recognized and welcomed into households all across the country. And, if you are familiar with the PCH name, you can be sure the scammers know us, as well."

Anyone contacted by a scammer is asked to contact local law enforcement to make them aware of the activity taking place.

Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or kjenkins@dailyjournalonline.com

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