By Mary C. Hunt
At least three woman in Bennett County are victims of fraud at the hands of thieves who claim to be representing Publishers Clearing House and informing them that they are big winners. The problem is this is a scam and instead of winning a big cash prize, local people are falling victim to identity theft, credit theft and bank fraud.
The imposters persuaded their victims to provide social security numbers, banking information and credit card information as recently as last week. The women were also told not to tell anyone, so the thefts were not reported quickly. The victims are now in the process of contacting law enforcement, banks and credit card companies to report the thefts.
The scam isn’t limited to Bennett County; it is a national problem. Thieves are contacting would-be victims across the country by mail, phone, text message, email and social media.
Publishers Clearing House (PCH) never charges its winners fees. If you’re contacted and told you’ve won but first you must send money to PCH, it is a scam. If you’re sent a check and asked to deposit it and then send money to PCH in order to receive the rest of your “prize,” it’s a scam.
In a June 2, 2017 press release, South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley warned about this type of scam. “South Dakotans receiving phone calls from anyone claiming to be Publishers Clearing House should hang up immediately. Do not be tempted to respond to the appeal of the call based on the false hope of being declared a winner, said Jackley. “Legitimate winners of any kind of sweepstakes are never required to pay monies to receive a prize.”
If you have given your information like bank or credit card numbers to a stranger claiming to represent Publishers Clearing House, call your bank and your credit card companies and the representatives will help you put hold on your accounts or close them.
If you believe you are being targeted for a scam or are already a victim, Bennett County Sheriff Paul Williams is available to assist you with steps to take, including who to contact to report the crime. Call the Sheriff at 685-6515.
If you believe you are the victim of a scam using the Publishers Clearing House name, the company recommends that you contact PCH immediately by calling their toll free number at 1-800-392-4190.
The South Dakota Attorney General’s Office Division of Consumer Protection has information about prize scams at https://consumer.sd.gov/ or you may call 1-800-300-1986 or email firstname.lastname@example.org giving your full name, address and phone number to report the crime.
The National Fraud Center has tips to help consumers avoid scams at www.fraud.org and there is also an online form to report fraud on the website.
More information about frauds using the Publishers Clearing House name can be found on the PCH website: https://info.pch.com/fraud-protection-2/
Unfortunately if something seems too good to be true, especially if it involves a cash prize, it probably is not true. Be especially cautious when a stranger contacts you with what seems like exciting news – and then asks for personal information or to send them money.