CALL 6: Sweepstakes scam takes thousands from Hoosiers

Better Business Bureau warns not to fall for it

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Better Business Bureau has a warning out about a scam swindling unsuspecting Hoosiers out of thousands of dollars.

Scammers are posing as Publishers Clearing House and sending letters or emails claiming you have won a prize.

East side resident John Rafferty learned the hard way, and wanted to share his story in the hopes of saving others from falling victim.

“It appeared possible because we had just applied for the sweepstakes,” said Rafferty. “Publishers Clearing House is a well-known company. They get people all excited I thought it could have been real.”

Here’s how the scam works: You receive a letter or email from “Publishers Clearing House,” saying you’ve won prize money.

The scammers will often enclose a check to cover duty taxes or fees.

The letter or email also includes a phone number where you talk to an “agent” who says you have to wire money or send them gift cards in order to cover processing.

“They strung us along for several days,” said Rafferty.  “They sounded very busy and like they do this all the time.”

Rafferty ended up sending the scammers nearly $6,000 in Target and Walmart gift cards in the hopes of getting his $75,000 prize.

Rafferty contacted the Better Business Bureau who confirmed his suspicions, that it was all a scam.

“We’re on a limited, fixed income,” said Rafferty. “A new car would have been good but it will have to wait awhile.  How could I have been so stupid?”

The Better Business Bureau of Central Indiana says scammers prey on your emotions.

“A lot of people think ‘hey, this is my lucky day’,” said Tim Maniscalo, president of BBB of Central Indiana.

When scammers pose as Publishers Clearing House, they’re able to get large sums of money out of unsuspecting Hoosiers.

But, there’s little the BBB can do after the fact.

"Gift cards are very difficult to trace, and it's almost impossible to get your money back,” said Maniscalo. “So once you've done that, kiss it goodbye, your money is not going to be coming back to you."

Call 6 Investigates checked with Publishers Clearing House.

They’re aware of the scam, and emphasize winning is always free and you never have to pay to claim a prize.

Publishers Clearing House does not reach out to winners via social media, phone or email.

For large prizes, Publishers Clearing House will send the prize patrol, unannounced, complete with balloons, flowers and a big check.

Call 6 Investigates called the number listed on the letter Rafferty received, but we only got a busy signal.

You can report Publishers Clearing House related scams to the BBB or at fraud.org.

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