- What Is the Publishers Clearing House Phishing Scam?
- How to Beat and Avoid Publishers Clearing House Scams
- Fallen For This Publishers Clearing House Scam?
- Frequently Asked Questions
Publishers Clearing House (PCH) is technically in the magazine subscription business, but the company is far more famous for its series of sweepstakes, which are responsible for doling out millions of dollars a year. Participation is free, but entering into the sweepstakes requires filling out a form. And unfortunately, several scammers have created Publishers Clearing House scam websites to trick people into giving away information.
What Is the Publishers Clearing House Phishing Scam?
This scam is designed to look realistic, but it leads to anything but a grand prize. Here's how the Publishers Clearing House phishing scam works.
You Receive a Fake Email/Message
The scam starts when you receive a message, whether through email or social media.
You might be told you won a Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes, or the message might tell you about an upcoming contest and ask you to enter.
Either way, there will be a link embedded in the message for you to click.
PCH Does Not Send Emails for Major or SuperPrize Winners
Publishers Clearing House will only notify you of winnings for Major or SuperPrize winnings by mail or in person.
- In person: Major prize awards.
- By mail (sometimes by email): Winners of $10,000 or less (via overnight express)
You’re Taken to a Fake Website Asking for Information
The URL may look legitimate, but the link will take you to a Publishers Clearing House phishing website run by scammers and designed to extract sensitive personal information.
It will look like an official PCH form, but the questions will be especially probing.
Some may seem mundane, like asking for your birthday and address, but others may get dangerously specific, asking for anything from your driver’s license number to your bank account or credit card details. You might also be asked to create an account and an accompanying PIN or password.
The Scammer Steals Your Information
Once you enter the information and send it off, it’s delivered to the scammers running the fake PCH website. With this information, the scammers are one step closer to stealing your identity.
If you created a password for the website, it might be used to unlock your other accounts. And even clicking on the link could allow the scammers to download malware on your device, whether or not you enter any information.
Unique Passwords Can Help Protect Your Accounts
It’s essential to use different passwords for all of your online accounts. That way, if you do fall victim to a phishing scam like this one, the scammer won’t be able to gain access to any of them. Use a password manager to help you remember all of your unique passwords.
There Is No Prize—Your Identity is Stolen
On top of having your personal information stolen, you won’t receive any prize since the site was a scam all along.
The scammer may end up with enough information to:
- Steal your identity
- Apply for lines of credit in your name
- Access your online accounts (including your credit card and bank accounts)
- Access your email
- Buy items in your name and charge them to your accounts
How to Beat and Avoid Publishers Clearing House Scams
The best way to avoid this scam is by not submitting information to a Publishers Clearing House website that isn’t the official PCH.com site.
Scammers have become incredibly sophisticated over the years, making it more and more challenging to tell a fake apart from the real thing. However, there are still a few signs to look out for to determine whether you’re dealing with a Publishers Clearing House scam website, including:
- Checking out the URL. Make sure to hover the mouse over the link to read the URL without clicking it because:
- Scammers can manipulate the names of links to make them look more official.
- Hovering over a link will give you the true URL.
- Clicking on a link can lead to malware being downloaded on your device, even if you don’t enter information.
- Paying attention to the details. Scammers are good but often forget little things like:
- Letter spacing
- Checking grammar and spelling
- Fixing typos
- Looking at the email address.
- Scammers often use free account services like Gmail.
- Being notified about a contest you never entered.
Publishers Clearing House will only ever contact major prize winners by certified mail or in person at your home address. So if you receive a call or email saying you've won, it's a scam.
The company is also very strict about how it contacts winners and sends out prizes, precisely to avoid these situations. Keep in mind, PCH will never:
- Email, message, or call major sweepstakes winners.
- The company will only deliver prizes in person or through certified mail.
- Ask you to pay to receive your prize.
- This includes payments for taxes or fees.
- Send you “partial prize payments” and ask you to pay or send a Moneygram to receive the rest.
If you receive a message about a Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes and still aren’t sure whether it’s real, you can contact the company directly to verify whether or not you’ve won.
Fallen For This Publishers Clearing House Scam?
If you’ve given information to a Publishers Clearing House scam website, there are several steps you can take to help secure your identity.
It is recommended that you:
- Report the incident as quickly as possible to:
- Change all of your passwords and PINs
- Place a fraud alert on your credit report
- Use an anti-virus program to clear out any viruses on your computer (if you think you may have downloaded malware)
Identity theft is a serious crime, and it could have serious consequences. If you think you participated in a Publishers Clearing House phishing scam, it’s best to be as proactive as possible.