It sounded too good to be true.
When Nina Doyle got a phone call saying she had just won $1 million and a new car from Publishers Clearing House, her heart jumped and her mind raced at the possibilities. But the savvy woman also knew that sometimes, things are not as they seem
“Someone called me saying they were from Publishers Clearing House and asked if I was going to be at home,” she said. “I’m not at home much, and it sounded legitimate at first.”
Doyle said the caller, who described himself as being part of the Publishers Clearing House Prize Patrol team and often used the name PCH during the conversation, asked if she could be home within an hour to claim her prize.
“He said, ‘We have your car and we have a cashier’s check for you’ and all this stuff,” Doyle said, noting that she thought the Prize Patrol was just trying to coordinate a time when she would be home because she often spends time at work or her boyfriend’s place.
Doyle said the man seemed confused when she said she was in the middle of her work shift and could not be home until 3 p.m. She said the man asked her to give him a call when she was heading home. Still thinking she might have truly hit the jackpot, she called her 25-year-old son and told him to clean up the house.
Then reality hit.
“When I called them back to tell them that I was going to be off an hour early, he didn’t even remember my name. … So I thought that was peculiar. That threw up a red flag,” she said.
Doyle said she went online, found the phone number to Publishers Clearing House and called. She learned, unfortunately, that she was not a winner, and the man was not a PCH employee.
“They were very upset. … They take the fraudulent use of their name very serious, and she said they were going to file a report with the Federal Trade Commission,” Doyle said. “She took a whole report from me.”
After speaking with the real PCH, Doyle said she called back the number and spoke with the scammer, playing along to see where it led. It was at that point the scam started to become apparent.
“He said I had to pay a 1 percent sales tax that came out to $900 and some dollars,” she said when she asked how she would claim her prize. “When I couldn’t come up with the $900, he dropped it down to $550. … I told him I am a single mama of four kids. … I cannot come up with $1,000. … He asked how much I could come up with, and I played along and said $100. He told me to go to Kroger and as soon as I get to the Kroger parking lot, to give him a call and he would tell me how to get my validation receipt … — obviously a Western Union receipt — and he was going to want me to send him the money by Western Union.”
Doyle said she does enter PCH sweepstakes online, and said she wanted others to be aware of the possible scam.
“They had my name, my address and my cellphone number,” she said noting she’s only had her cellphone number for two years.
She said the real PCH employees said they don’t notify sweepstakes winners by phone.
“The real Prize Patrol would just show up and surprise the real big-prize winners,” Doyle said she was told.
Doyle said PCH was going to follow her case to the end. The 19-year Liberty County resident said it was disturbing to know people were heinous enough to try and swindle hardworking people out of their money. It also was disturbing to see how much information these scammers were able to gather.
Doyle planned to file an incident report with the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office.