Ben Russell, NBC 5 News
A Fort Worth woman says clever crooks claiming she won Publishers Clearing House fleeced her out of $2,000.
A Fort Worth woman is a con artist’s latest victim in a Publishers Clearing House hoax.
A convincing con artist has been calling people on the phone and informing them they have won the Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes.
The victim, a 32-year-old single mother, told NBC 5 she received the phone call Tuesday morning. The caller identified himself as a representative of Publishers Clearing House – the well-known company that surprises people at home with large novelty checks.
The woman said the man on the phone knew her name, her address and that she was an AT&T Wireless customer.
The caller informed the woman that her "life was about to change," according to the police report she filed Tuesday.
The caller told her that the prize patrol was on its way to her home with a check in her name for $500,000.
The caller informed the victim to prepare a speech and to put on a nice outfit in preparation for the camera crew that would be coming to broadcast the check presentation.
The man on the phone was convincing, the victim said, and had legitimate-sounding answers to her questions anytime she grew skeptical.
His calls, of which there were several throughout the day, all came from the 876 area code, which is from Jamaica. When the victim asked about the origin of the area code, the caller said the calls were routed through an international area code from the company’s call center in New York. The man even provided the address of the actual corporate headquarters for Publishers Clearing House, she said.
In exchange for receiving the winnings, the caller instructed the woman to purchase prepaid Green Dot Moneypak debit cards, which would be used to cover the taxes and fees associated with such a large prize. The debit cards totaled more than $2,200, according to the police report.
A statement posted on Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes website addresses a scheme like this:
"If you receive a telephone call from someone claiming you have won a sweepstakes prize but are asked to send money to claim it -- STOP -- you have not heard from a legitimate sweepstakes company. At Publishers Clearing House we do not notify our contest winners by phone."
A representative from AT&T provided this statement to NBC 5 Wednesday:
"Fraudulent callers may misrepresent themselves. If you doubt the identity of the caller, hang up. To protect your identity, be careful about disclosing personal information over the phone."