PUEBLO — It's a line that's too good to be true, but when someone tells you that you've just won millions of dollars in a familiar contest, you just might listen. It's a call one of our viewers in Pueblo got recently. She trusted News5 to help her identify the scam and to share this important warning.
Most sweepstakes scams have a few things in common. They tell you that you've won, or are about to win a large cash prize and you just have to pay a fee and provide sensitive information to claim the bogus prize.
That's exactly what happened to a woman named Elaine who lives in Pueblo. She was familiar with the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes and even says she entered at one point. So when someone called telling her she won more than $3 million it got her attention.
But the caller wanted her to pay hundreds of dollars to collect her prize so she began to question the call.
"He said my team from Denver will be having to come down to meet you at your home," Elaine said the caller told her and then went on to ask more of her. "Well, you'll have to pay $500 to get the check registered. I said excuse me, if I won money why would I have to pay money to get the money I won. He gave badge numbers, gave lawyers numbers, gave managers numbers. Even though his accent was heavy he sounded professional."
The folks at the actual Publishers Clearing House organization say they are well aware of these scams and say their organization will never call or email to let you know you've won. Plus, they will never ask you to pay taxes or any money at all to collect your winnings.
Elaine did exactly the right thing. She got information but didn't commit to anything. She hung up and called News5 where we were able to confirm she had been the target of a scam call.
During the last year scam callers have been aggressive going after people who are lonely and especially our seniors who can be rushed, intimidated, and overloaded with information leading to poor decisions. It's why federal investigators want us to be intentional in talking about scams with our loved ones and neighbors.
When you have that conversation these are some important points the Federal Trade Commission suggests that we try to make:
- Remind people to be skeptical and to hang up. Scammers have lots of fake stories. They'll use access to a vaccine, prizes, tech support, even a fake love story to get their attention.
- Focus on the end game, these crooks want money and sensitive information.
- Nobody legitimate will ever ask for payments in gift cards, money transfers, or cryptocurrency.
- No government agency will contact you for money, social security number, banking, or credit card information.
Elaine in Pueblo had this to say after her experience with a scam caller.
"I was one of them, I didn't say they weren't happening, I just said it had never happened to me. These scam calls do happen. They are scary," said Elaine. "Please do not give your information out to anyone. We contacted Channel 5 immediately and that was because we watch you all and you put that out that you are trying to take care of us and that means all the difference."
It's true, being a target of a scam can be scary, but the best way to fight back is to talk about it to raise awareness and to report it. The more reports investigators get, the more likely it is for them to go after the people behind these crimes.
In addition to reporting scams to your local law enforcement agency, here are two sites you should report scams to in order to help in the fight against scams and fraud: