Beware Publisher’s Clearing House scam

Oh, boy, oh boy, these folks running this Publisher’s Clearing House scam in Susanville are pretty darn slick. Don’t get ripped off by these bozos.

Let me say right off — PCH does not contact winners over the phone, and they never ask a winner to send money to claim a prize.

According to the PCH website, “If you are contacted by someone claiming to represent Publishers Clearing House or claiming to be a PCH employee who says you won a prize, but to claim it, you must drive somewhere, buy a ‘Green Dot’ card or Money Order, pay a shipping, handling, or delivery fee, prepay taxes, pay a deposit, give a credit card number, call a 900 number, or purchase a product with a ‘discount voucher’, it is not affiliated in any way with the real Publishers Clearing House.”

Here’s what happened 
Imagine my surprise when I got a call yesterday afternoon from a man who identified himself as Frank Barker informing me I had won a cash prize of $950,000, a new Chrysler 300 and $7,000 a week for life. “Wow,” I said, and I asked, “how can that be?”

Barker said he was calling because I had not responded to the winner’s notification I had received about three weeks ago in the mail, and therefore I had not yet claimed my prize. He said PCH was so concerned about me missing out, his job was to ensure I received my prize even though I had not responded to the mailing with the winning notification.

OK, I said, but I don’t recall receiving any notification from PCH in the mail, and besides that I had not entered the contest. He asked if I had entered a PCH contest in the past. I said yes. He said that made me eligible for this prize.

“Alright,” I said raising one eyebrow, since the only PCH contest I’d ever entered was when I lived in Fresno about 35 years ago. I’m pretty sure I did not have this cell phone back then.

He asked me if I had a bank account where my monthly checks could be deposited. I said yes, but I said I wasn’t going to share that kind of information with him over the phone. He said that was OK, he wasn’t trying to get my bank account number; he just wanted to make sure I had a bank account where my $7,000 check could be deposited every week. So I’m guessing I missed the first part of the scam there.

Since he would be driving up to deliver my prize this afternoon, he wondered if I wanted a public or private ceremony. I said, “I’m sure you want the publicity from a public ceremony.” He said the company was way more concerned about my privacy than publicity, and he suggested I go with a private ceremony. He said if people knew I was receiving such a large sum of money, my “friends” would be coming out of the woodwork trying to get their share.

“I don’t care. Whatever works best for you,” I said suspiciously.

He then asked me to call the sweepstake’s supervisor, a David Green, who could make all the arrangements for me to claim my prize, and then he would drive up from Woodland this very afternoon to deliver it. (But, Lucy, he was calling you from a New York number!)

After many congratulations, Mr. Green asked me to go to a local drug store, buy a pair of $500 Green Dot cards and then send $1,000 to cover the transportation cost of bringing my new car from New York to Susanville (although Barker had told me the car was already waiting for me in Woodland).

“You want me to send you money to claim my prize?” I asked. He said yes, and then told me I had to use cash — not my credit card — to purchase the cards at the local drug store. And then, just as a friend, he advised me not to tell the clerks at the store who would be processing the cards to send him the money what was going on. If they asked, I should tell them “it’s personal.” That is especially important since I’d already agreed to a private award ceremony. He asked me to keep the phone call going as I drove to my ATM, made the withdrawal in cash, went to the store and through the purchase of the cards so he could direct me and there would be no errors in the process.

I shook my head, spit out a four-letter word and hung up. He called me right back, but I didn’t answer. Believe it or not, still thinking they had me on the line, they called me back again this morning. Twice. I just didn’t pick up.

I reported the scam to both the Susanville Police Department and PCH. Be very wary if you get a call from these folks because they’re out to steal your money, and there’s little, if anything, that can be done to retrieve it once you send it to them.

If you’d like to speak to Mr. David Green yourself, have some fun with these clowns and maybe drop a wrench in the gears, his number is (347) 943-7452, ext. 5. My ID number is 1996MB. My claim number is USA 842509PCH. My bar code number is 7704ITL.