BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)–Sheryl Chambers’ phone rang at least three dozen times in a few days, the caller congratulating her for winning the famous Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes. But the calls were fake.
Chambers was lucky. She didn’t really win the sweepstakes, but she figured out the calls were a scam before they turned her into a big time loser.
“He said congratulations, you won $1.5 million from Publishers Clearing House because you pay your bills on time. He went on to say and I was going to get a candy apple red 2020 Mercedes.”
The caller seemed to be preying on the images of all those lucky winners over the years, suddenly getting rich quick. In fact, there were three PCH winners in Western New York within a matter of three weeks, last summer.
But the caller told Sheryl she would have to pay taxes and other expenses before PCH’s Prize Patrol would show up at her front door, and he sent her a check for $4,500 to cover those costs.
Sheryl was told to cash the check and send the money to an address in New Jersey, “Then put it in between four magazines–in between the pages of these four magazines–and go to Federal Express. In fact, have it sent to this address.”
The check was likely counterfeit, although it seemed to be drawn on an actual bank in New Jersey, but Secret Service Special Agent-in-Charge Lewis Robinson told us, by the time Sheryl would have found out the check was bad, it would have been too late.
Robinson said a bank teller would not have been able to decide the check’s authenticity, “It looks like a genuine check and that person at that time would not have any indication that this may not be a good check.”
He added, Chambers’ bank would have covered the funny money with real currency, and she would have had to cover the lost funds, all $4,500.
“It would not be until the check is cashed and gone through the banking system that it is determined to be a counterfeit check.”
A Publishers Clearing House spokesman told us, they never call a sweepstakes winner ahead of time–the real Prize Patrol shows up with an oversized check unannounced at the front door–and there’s nothing to pay for.
Robinson told us, if you are a victim, report it to your local police department, and contact the U.S. Secret Service office downtown. The phone number is (716) 551-4401.