Publishers Clearing House scam in South Dakota prompts warnings from the Better Business Bureau
RAPID CITY, S.D.– After a South Dakota man lost hundreds of dollars to an online scam, the state’s Better Business Bureau (BBB) division is urging consumers to use caution this holiday season. Vice President for the BBB’s South Dakota Region Jessie Schmidt has some advice on how to avoid falling prey.
How the scam came to light
According to Schmidt, the man affected by the scam received an email from someone claiming to be Publishers Clearing House (PCH) saying that he had won the sweepstakes. After giving this imposter his phone number, he began sending them payments in the form of MoneyPak cards they had requested as part of the process of “claiming” the prize.
“We have had this happen over and over again. Scammers look to capitalize on well-known businesses like the Publisher’s Clearing House,” Schmidt said.
However, this scam is not new to Schmidt. She recalls it first coming to her attention in 2020 and it has not gone away. “They continue to really be a common scam that plagues consumers,” she added. “And we’ve heard from several consumers this week that they have been “contacted” by Publishers Clearing House.
How Publishers Clearing House works
In order to have a chance at winning, people must have previously registered in contests and sweepstakes. The same goes for lotteries.
For Publishers Clearing House, once people register they are never contacted by the company until officials choose to let them know they are a winner via mail or an in-person visit.
“Patterns of scammers,” Schmidt says, “follow people who either are not registered or registered years ago for sweepstakes like the Publishers Clearing House.”
“If you can’t recall buying a ticket or entering the sweepstakes, then that’s a sure sign. They tell you that you’ve won while they can’t tell you when you entered the sweepstakes or if you’ve had no communication from them.”
What the Better Business Bureau advises
The Better Business Bureau compiled this list for residents to refer to if they suspect a potential scam:
- True lotteries or sweepstakes don’t ask for money. If someone wants money for taxes, themselves, or a third party, they are most likely crooks.
- You have to enter to win. To win a lottery, you must buy a lottery ticket. To win a sweepstakes or prize, you must have entered first. If you can’t remember doing so, that’s a red flag.
- Call the sweepstakes company directly to see if you won. Publishers Clearing House does not call people in advance to tell them they’ve won. Report PCH imposters or check to see if you have actually won at 800-392-4190.
- Check to see if you won a lottery. Call the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries at 440-361-7962 or your local state lottery agency.
- Do an internet search of the company, name, or phone number of the person who contacted you. If what you find online doesn’t seem to line up with the person you’re talking to, be wary.
- Law enforcement officials do not call and award prizes. Verify the identity of the caller and do not send money until you do.
- Talk to a trusted family member or your bank. They may be able to help.
What to do if a scam is suspected
If receiving a call suspected to be this scam or any other scam, Schmidt urges people to call the Better Business Bureau’s toll-free number, 1-800-649-6814. “That phone is answered Monday through Fridays from 8 to 4,” she says. “So we encourage consumers to give us a call anytime. We have live people to answer that phone.”