A couple in Stockton were swindled last week in a scam in which an unknown caller posed as a Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes official.
The couple received a phone call on Monday, November 25, from a man who said they had won $1.25 million in the Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes. The man told the 47-year-old woman that he would arrive with the famous oversized check the following morning. All she had to do, he told her, was purchase a prepaid credit card in the amount of $385 so he could pay the taxes on the couple’s winnings upfront.
The two purchased the card and called the scam artist back to give him the card numbers so he could take the money from the card remotely. By this time, the couple grew suspicious and called police, Winona County Sheriff Chief Deputy Ron Ganrude reported.
Sheriff’s officials attempted to assist the couple in canceling the prepaid credit card, but the money had already been withdrawn. On Tuesday night, the man called the Stockton residence again and told the couple he was in the area with the check, but needed $1,800 in order to purchase tax stamps from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). When the woman told the caller she was prepared to call the IRS to confirm his story, the scam artist hung up.
Police said the phone number used by the man was through a computer phone service, and was inactive by the time police attempted to trace the line.
The scam is one of many in recent years in which criminals tell unsuspecting marks that they have won money, but that they must pay upfront in order to receive it. “If they want money from you, you’re not getting anything from them,” Ganrude advised.
Anyone who receives a similar call or believes she may be the target of such a scam should quickly report the incident to police, Ganrude said.