Sections on this page
- What is a Publishers Clearing House Scam Call?
- How to Beat and Avoid Publishers Clearing House Scam Calls
- Examples of Publishers Clearing House Scam Calls
- Have You Fallen for a Publishers Clearing House Scam Call?
- Frequently Asked Questions
Publishers Clearing House (PCH) has been selling magazine subscriptions since the 1950s, but the company has become much more famous for its cash prize giveaways, with PCH responsible for doling out millions of dollars a year to lucky sweepstakes winners. While the sweepstakes—and their prizes—are real, they’re also really hard to win, with the odds of cashing in on the grand prize in the billions. But that hasn’t stopped scammers from trying to convince unlucky victims that they’ve hit the big one through the Publishers Clearing House scam call.
What is a Publishers Clearing House Scam Call?
Any call you receive from PCH should be met with caution. More often than not, it's a scam. To avoid falling for these scams, it's important to understand how they work and the red flags to watch out for.
You Receive a Phone Call
Every scam starts when the scammer first makes contact, and in the case of Publishers Clearing House scam calls, that contact begins with a phone call.
The person on the other end of the line will tell you they’re from PCH and that you’re the lucky winner of one of these sweepstakes—maybe even the grand prize—and that everything has been arranged for you to receive your money.
Example Phone Call
Hi, I'm calling from PCH, Publishers Clearing House, to let you know you've won our sweepstakes of $1 million. You should have received our letter in the mail.
All we need you to do is pay a small fee in order for you to unlock your winnings and we will get you a check for your winnings! It's just a small fee of $50 to cover administration fees and you'll get your million dollar prize.
You’re Asked for Money Or Personal Information
There’s a catch, of course.
The person on the phone will tell you that you’ll have to send money to cover the taxes before receiving your prize. Or they might tell you that there’s a fee you’ll have to pay to “unlock” your winnings.
They may also ask you for personal information, such as your:
- Driver’s license number
- Bank account or credit card information
You Send the Money and Provide Your Information
It sounds too good to be true—but it also sounds official—so you send your money to the address the person on the phone gives you. Unfortunately, that’s the last time you’ll see it—the money is being sent directly to a scammer and not PCH.
If you also send the scammer your personal information, they'll, unfortunately, use this to steal your identity and money.
How to Beat and Avoid Publishers Clearing House Scam Calls
The best way to beat a Publishers Clearing House scam call is by not sending any money or giving personal information to anyone claiming to work for Publishers Clearing House.
The company is very strict about the way it contacts winners and sends out prizes, precisely to avoid these situations. So there are a few tricks to try to figure out whether you were on the wrong end of a Publishers Clearing House phone scam.
PCH says they will NEVER contact a winner via phone call. The ONLY way Publishers Clearing House will contact sweepstakes winners is through certified mail or in-person, with the Prize Patrol.
According to Publishers Clearing House, the company will NEVER:
- Contact you by phone or email if you've won a prize
- Ask for money to give you your prize.
- Charge you fees or make you pay taxes on your winnings.
- Ask for any sensitive information, including your bank account and credit card data.
- Send checks directly.
Other common red flags of PCH fraud include being:
- Told you won a sweepstake you didn’t enter.
- Asked to pay for your prize—in any way.
- Asked to wire money or use prepaid debit or gift cards to pay for fees or taxes.
- Asked for personal information of any kind.
If you’re still not sure whether you’re on the receiving end of a Publishers Clearing House phone scam, you can also contact the company directly to verify whether or not you’ve won.
Examples of Publishers Clearing House Scam Calls
Scams are ever-changing, with scammers always making minor fixes to scripts as they go along to keep fooling people.
One woman on the wrong end of a Publishers Clearing House phone scam said the person on the other end told her, “I’m calling from Publishers Clearing House to let you know that you are the second prize winner of the sweepstakes for $2.45 million.”
The person then gave her a “badge number” and asked her to go to the nearest Walmart or Walgreens to “prove her identity” by sending a Moneygram.
When asked whether the call was real, the woman said the person (i.e., the scammer) told her, “I would not do a thing to you like that; I used to be a minister.”
Scammers may use different variations of this script to try to convince you that they work for the company, that you’ve really won, and that you’re not, in fact, receiving a Publishers Clearing House scam call.
Have You Fallen for a Publishers Clearing House Scam Call?
If you believe you’ve been targeted by a Publishers Clearing House phone scam, you can and should report the incident to:
- Publishers Clearing House, by:
- Filling out a Scam Incident Report.
- Calling the company’s scam line at (800) 392-4190.
- Calling the company’s customer service line at (800) 645-9242.
- Your local police
- The authorities (e.g., Federal Trade Commission, FBI, local police)
- The credit bureaus to place a fraud alert (if you believe you could have your identity stolen)
- Your bank or financial institution
Beware of Identity Theft
If you received a Publishers Clearing House scam call and gave away any personal information, there could be much more at stake than the money you sent out.
Personal information is the gateway to identity theft, which could put you deep into debt and take years to untangle. With your information, scammers could take out lines of credit in your name, such as bank loans and credit cards.
You should place a fraud alert on your credit report and monitor your credit report regularly to look for any suspicious activity.