If you enter a contest, be sure to know the rules.
That’s the lesson one Ellerbe couple is taking away after being notified on Friday by phone that they won $2.5 million and a new Mercedes in the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes.
The woman, who didn’t want to be named in this story for fear of reprisal, felt it was important to get the word out about the scam now as legitimate PCH winners will be named next month — leaving plenty of time for scammers to prey on potential victims.
The first sign that it was a scam should have been the phone call. According to the PCH website, winners of $500 or more are never contacted by phone. Instead, PCH contacts them by certified or express mail or in person. The second was a noise similar to a crowing rooster in the background.
According to the woman, a man who identified himself as David Peterson in New York said her husband, who regularly enters such contests, had won. Peterson, the woman said, wanted her to confirm some rather basic information about the couple — name, address and more.
Then Peterson said that in order to claim the prize, the woman was to go to the nearest Rite-Aid and buy a $400 paper scratch card. According to the woman, Peterson asked her if the couple had $400 in cash in the house. She said no.
Once she had purchased the scratch card, the woman was instructed to call Peterson back at 876-387-8705. According to online reports, this number has previously been linked to scams using the PCH name. The woman, who did not purchase the scratch card, did not call Peterson back.
That prompted another man to call the woman several times over the weekend, the woman said. While Peterson sounded like “a foreign national” and not “all that smart to me,” the second man sounded educated with little to no accent.
“When I hung up, I just knew it was a scam,” she said.
She called Publishers Clearing House and a representative there confirmed it was a scam.