- What is a Publishers Clearing House Scam Call?
- Red Flags of Publishers Clearing House Scam Calls
- How They Do It: PCH Scam Call
- How to Beat 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. PCH is 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.
Red Flags 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.
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.
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 fake Publishers Clearing House call.
How They Do It: PCH Scam Call
There are a few live recordings of people talking to scammers pretending to be from Publishers Clearing House, but one particular example stands out. In this version, the person called keeps the scammer engaged over multiple calls so you can see the extent of the scam, how it works, and some of the inconsistencies.
Here's the full video:
We break down the call here and point out some of the tell-tale signs of the scam.
Tactic 1: Using a Trusted Brand or Authority Figure
I am calling you from the PCH, that is the Publishers Clearing House over here in Houston Texas, in reference to a cash prize, that your name has been randomly selected off for this month, that is for a certified managers cashier's check containing $4.5 million, alongside with a 2016 pearl white Mercedes Benz that is full of the Geico Insurance Company. You have been awarded this money, sir. You have won it.
You did not receive the notification letter that we sent you?
Step 2: Use Reciprocation (Giving You Something in Exchange for Something in Return)
As I told you, you only need to get your one person UPS deliver fee paid, so that we could have the United Postal Service deliver your package at the home of your residence. The certified check is here in my possession and will be delivered by me and Mrs Deborah Howard from the PCH. Would you like us to tell the media?
Step 3: Ask for a Small Commitment Upfront (and Lay More Commitments On Top)
Do you think that we could get the payment taken care of today, so we can get the process started in getting your money and your car?
Step 4: Use a Second Trusted Brand to Add Legitimacy
This is the message that the target receives when they call the number. Note it is a recorded message and the voice is a female with an American accent.
Take down this cell phone number 805 310 4642. Pick up your cell phone and dial that number in your cell phone. That is the Bank of America of where your money is at. That is where your money is located at.
I am providing you with the bank number so that you could call and get yourself registered so that they could have the money approved to be paid out to you today. You just call that number and select option 3.
Option 3 is to give you an enquiry of how much money is available in their banking system for you. Just call that number and give me a call back as soon as you are finished and remember, select option 3.
Step 5: Add a Second Commitment (Paying a 1% Fee)
Thank you for calling Bank of America, our calls are being monitored for quality assurance, please press 2 to open a new account, press 3 for your account balance.
Welcome to the Bank of America, our computer system recognises your phone number a wire transfer was made to your account, congratulations, please write down your wire transfer number along with your 3 digit access pin code, transfer numbers 205 60771 Pin code 570. All you will need now is your final approval scan fee which is 1% of your twenty million dollars. The 1% fee is $2000. If you can’t pay the full amount we can put you on a payment plan or you can pay your minimum fee which is $700. The final approval scan fee is required by….
The target calls the scammer back to confirm that he has spoken to the Bank of America.
The only thing that is required for your to receive your money is to get your 1% taxes taken care of on the money so that we could have the wire transfer done to your personal account so that you could have this money to do what ever you need to do, because this money is yours.
At this point, he confirms with the scammer that he has to pay 1% of 4.5 million which is $2000.
Inconsistent Information—A Sure Sign of a Scam
Now while some parts of the scam are well constructed, the scammers got their information all mixed up at this point. The phony Bank of America recording stated the fee was 1% of $20 million and the scammer later says 1% of $4.5 million, which is not $2,000.
Step 6: Adding Pressure and Urgency
You will be getting your money, 24 hours after you get your money paid so that the process can go through, because the process can take a little time so that in 24 hours you will have money to use and do whatever you need to do.
Step 7: Payment via an Untraceable Channel
You need to go to Walmart. I will give you the merchant banker's name and address, so get a clean sheet of paper and I can give you his name. His name is Jeffrey Shields. You are going to wire $1,000 to Mr Jeffrey Shields and his address is in North Carolina.
The reason why you are going to Walmart is that you will be getting a receipt from Walmart with some confirmation numbers and those are the numbers that we are going to use in our computer system to get your name registered.
Do you think that you can make it to the Walmart today?"
Once you understand the tactics that scammers use you can look out for the same things in other types of scams.
How to Beat Publishers Clearing House Scam Calls
The best way to beat fake calls from an imposter posing as Publishers Clearing House 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.
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.
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 call that is a scam 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.