CLARION - A local couple is warning local residents of an attempted "Publishers Clearing House" scam they experienced earlier this week.
To protect the couple's privacy and identity from further scam attempts, only their first names will be used here.
"A man identifying himself as William Mason,' representing himself as prize distributor for Publishers Clearing House told me I was a second-prize winner in their sweepstakes," Elaine told the CLARION NEWS. "I was going to receive a check for $2.5 million and a brand new, red, Mercedes."
Elaine said she was given a confirmation number and told the prize patrol would arrive at her home (Monday) at 2:30 p.m. to deliver the prize.
"He said I had to go to Walmart to send $2,500 to a CPA in North Carolina in order to receive a receipt to give to the prize patrol," reported Elaine. "Without that receipt, which was to pay some sort of tax -- which would be refunded, supposedly -- I could not receive my prize."
Elaine was also told she would need proof of her identity and a valid Pennsylvania driver's license.
"He gave me his phone number and said he would call me back," said Elaine, who was not being fooled by the caller. "Mr. Mason' was very concerned that I would invest my money and not squander it. He repeatedly advised me to be careful with the money."
Elaine and her husband Don decided to check out the story they were being told.
"We have a friend who has worked at the Cranberry Walmart service desk for a long time," said Elaine. "We showed her the information he had given me. She immediately recognized it as a scam. She gave us a card, distributed by Walmart, with lots of information to help identify scammers and with phone numbers and emails of national agencies such as the Better Business Bureau."
Elaine and Don called "William Mason" back to tell him they were onto his scam.
"He told us to go to another Walmart," said Elaine. "When we said that was out of the question, he began trying to convince us his offer was legitimate and we were running out of time since I had to beat the 2:30 p.m. deadline. I asked where the car had been purchased as he had told me the car was already registered in my name.
"I said I would call the dealer and verify his story. He said he would give me the dealer's phone number. I said I wanted the name of the dealer and I would look up the number myself. After a few seconds he said he would have the Better Business Bureau call me."
Elaine said within seconds she received a telephone call from someone claiming to be with the Better Business Bureau.
"Imagine getting an agent on the phone that quickly," quipped Elaine. "We said they were part of scam and hung up."
Elaine and Don at the state police station in Cranberry and reported they had been contacted by a scammer.
"They thanked us and checked to make sure we didn't give them any money or personal information," said Elaine. "I offered them the phone numbers and names I had. The trooper said it would be pointless as they were all fakes anyway. I reported the incident in brief to the BBB. We also read up on PCH's prize policies and other scam reports involving their name."
Elaine and Do wanted to share their experience with readers of the CLARION NEWS.
"We thought you would want to know all this in case this particular group had decided to target the Clarion area," said Elaine. "They apparently prefer senior citizens as their targets."
Publishers Clearing House warns of scams
On its website, Publishers Clearing House warns a prize notification is a fraud if:
"If you're required to wire or pay any amount of money in order to claim a prize, it's a Publishers Clearing House Scam. PCH sweepstakes are always free to enter and there is never any fee associated with winning.
"If someone tries to contact you in advance regarding a prize delivery, it's a Publishers Clearing House Scam. After all, that would ruin the surprise. For decades, our Prize Patrol has captured the elated reactions of surprised winners and used them in our nationally televised commercials.
"You'll know you're a big PCH winner if you see the Prize Patrol at your front door holding a Big Check' with your name on it."