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Scammers grow more sophisticated

September 19, 2016 GMT

Criminals trying to fool unwary individuals out of their money have added a sophisticated twist in the scam mimicking the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes.

A retired educator reported Friday that her 91-year-old mother, a patient in an Amarillo rehabilitation hospital, was almost taken in by a letter and check dated Aug. 20.

“She was ready to deposit the check and send them a money order because it said she would get $2.5 million in return,” the Plainview woman said.

Instead, the daughter convince her mother to wait until the daughter could check it out. One phone call, telling her the remittance was needed to cover insurance and attorney fees, was enough for her to realize her mother would be thousands of dollars poorer if she followed their instructions.

“Mother supposedly was a second place winner in their $100 million giveaway, and they sent a check from Allstate for $5,762. All we needed to do was deposit it into her bank account and wire it back via a Money Gram.”

The letter noted that due to state and federal laws, the recipient had to keep all communications confidential and not discuss them with any third parties.

While her mom was almost taken in, the daughter wasn’t, realizing the check was worthless and if the proceeds had been wired before the check was dishonored, her mother would have been responsible for the loss. “Like a lot of people, she doesn’t keep an extra $5,000 or $6,000 in her bank account, and we don’t either. We don’t have that kind of money sitting around.”

According to Publishers Clearing House, there are five foolproof ways to determine if a PCH prize offer is fraudulent:

1. If you are required to wire or pay any amount in order to claim a prize, it’s a scam. There’s never a fee associated with winning.

2. If you are asked to load up a Green Dot MoneyPak or other money transfer card in exchange for claiming your prize, it’s a scam.

3. If someone tries to contact you in advance regarding a prize delivery, it’s a scam. The PCH Prize Patrol never gives advance warning.

4. If someone calls claiming to be from Publishers Clearing House and says you’ve won, it’s a scam. The Prize Patrol awards its big prizes in person, and never calls to update personal information for its files.

5. If someone claiming to be from PCH sends a friend request on Facebook, it’s a scam. PCH never sends private messages via Facebook or elsewhere.