Publishers Clearing House Scams (5 Examples + How To Avoid Them)

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Publishers Clearing House (PCH) has long been associated with grand dreams to many. The company promises huge cash prizes and exciting sweepstakes.

Beneath the enticing promises can lie a web of deceit. The Publishers Clearing scams have duped unsuspecting individuals for years, employing deceptive tactics to lure you into a trap of financial loss and emotional distress.

The Publishers Clearing House scams mostly target older folks. Scammers get in touch by phone, text, or email, claiming you’ve won a ton of money from the Publisher’s Clearing House lottery.

But most of the time, you never even entered! They lie that to get the money, you need to pay “taxes” or “processing fees.” They ask for thousands of dollars using wire transfers, checks, gift cards, Venmo, or PayPal.

1) Fake Checks For Winnings

Scammers can try to pull a fast one on you with a fake check for supposed sweepstakes winnings in the mail. This scam involves tricking you into cashing a fake check and then sending a portion of the money back to them.

You receive a check in the mail, claiming to be from PCH for your supposed sweepstakes winnings. Scammers often follow up with a request for you to cover “lawyer’s fees” or “insurance.”

But here’s the catch—after you cash the fake check, the bank figures out it’s a sham, and they’ll withdraw the money from your account.

Never pay for PCH prizes. If PCH really did send you a check, they won’t ask for any money back. Legitimate winnings don’t come with demands for “lawyer’s fees” or processing charges.

If you’re suspicious, verify your winnings with PCH customer service. Give them a call at 1-800-459-4724 to confirm if you’re actually a winner. Don’t trust unsolicited information; go straight to the source.

2) Fees To Claim Your Prize

Your phone rings, and the caller excitedly tells you about your big win. The moment they mention a fee, you should hang up as it is a classic scam tactic. They might even claim they’re sending you money to cover these fees, but it’s all part of their scheme.

They’ll send a fake check, leaving you to face the consequences. Ken , a 63-year-old, got a call claiming he won $3.5 million from PCH. The caller convinced him to wire almost $4,000 before he realized it was a scam.

Scammers can manipulate phones to show any name and number they want, even making it look like a legitimate call from Publishers Clearing House. They might even time their calls with PCH’s official prize calendar to make the scam seem more real.

3) “Claims Agent” Requests

Someone can try to make you believe you need to contact a supposed “claims agent” to manage your prize award from Publishers Clearing House (PCH).

This scam is designed to make you think you’re dealing with a professional third party, but in reality, it’s a ploy to get you to give up personal information in exchange for your so-called winnings.

Always avoid speaking to third parties. Legitimate Publishers Clearing House operations don’t involve claims agents. If someone insists you need to go through a third party, it’s likely a scam.

Don’t share sensitive data. Your bank account number and Social Security number (SSN) are like gold. Legitimate prize operations won’t ask for this kind of information. Keep it confidential, and don’t give it out to anyone.

Consider signing up for identity theft protection with credit monitoring. Such tools are handy to help you monitor your financial accounts for signs of fraud and alert you faster than other services. It’s an extra layer of protection to keep your information safe.

4) New Accounts To Collect Money

This scam preys on the promise of valuable winnings, like a hefty sum of money or a brand-new car. Scammers might try to lure you into opening new accounts to supposedly collect prize money. You get an offer that sounds too good to be true, like $1.5 million and a brand-new Mercedes convertible. 

The catch? You’re asked to open a new bank account and send a photocopy of your ID. Genuine sweepstakes companies can send your winnings directly to your existing bank account.

There’s never a valid reason to open a new account.

Never open an account to collect a sweepstakes prize. Always keep your ID safe. Avoid sending sensitive documents such as your ID via phone or email. If a legit company needs to verify your identity, they’ll provide a secure method for you to share the necessary information.

5) Facebook Messages Imposters

Scammers are now lurking on social media platforms, especially Facebook, as they try to pull off PCH scams. These fraudsters are getting clever by copying images and content from the official PCH Prize Patrol Facebook account.

They use this stolen content to target people who follow the legitimate PCH page, claiming that they’ve won big. It’s all part of a scam to get victims to make upfront payments, hand over a portion of their supposed winnings, or share sensitive financial data.

PCH employees don’t reach out to winners through Facebook. If you receive friend requests from supposed PCH employees, consider them red flags. These are not real accounts.

How to Identify a PCH Scam

Verify Communication Channels

Communication from Publishers Clearing House comes through official channels. Be wary of unexpected emails, phone calls, or messages claiming you’ve won a prize. PCH usually notifies winners through certified mail or in person with the famous Prize Patrol.

If you receive a message out of the blue, especially if it asks for personal information or payment upfront, it’s likely a scam. PCH will never ask winners to pay fees in advance.

Check for Authenticity

Scammers often create fake documents and use deceptive tactics to make their messages look real. If you receive a notification from PCH, scrutinize it carefully. Look for official logos, proper grammar, and consistent formatting. 

All PCH communications will provide clear details about the prize won, and they won’t pressure you to respond urgently. If anything seems off or too good to be true, take the time to investigate further before providing any information.

Never Pay to Win

One key sign of a scam is a request for payment to claim your prize. Authentic sweepstakes like PCH will never ask winners to pay fees upfront. If someone tells you that you need to send money for taxes, shipping, or any other reason, it’s a red flag.

Scammers use these tactics to exploit people’s excitement and trust. Remember, real prizes come without a price tag.

Cross-Check with PCH Official Sources

To verify the authenticity of a win, always cross-check information with official PCH sources. Visit the official PCH website or contact their customer service directly using the contact details listed on the official site.

PCH provides a toll-free number for inquiries, and they are willing to assist in confirming whether you are a legitimate winner. Avoid using contact information provided in suspicious messages.

Beware of Unsolicited Contact

Publishers Clearing House does not randomly select winners without prior entry into their contests. If you receive a notification claiming you’ve won without ever entering, it’s likely a scam.

PCH wins are based on participation, and PCH clearly outlines the entry process for all their contests. Exercise caution with unsolicited messages declaring you as a winner if you haven’t actively engaged in any PCH contests.

Double-Check Email Addresses and Websites

Scammers often create email addresses and websites that mimic official PCH communication. Check the sender’s email address closely, and be cautious of misspellings or variations that look suspicious.

On top of that, verify the website’s URL by typing it directly into your browser rather than clicking on links provided in emails. 

All PCH communications will come from official PCH domains, and the website will have a secure connection (https://) for any interactions involving personal information.

If in doubt, visit the official PCH website independently rather than relying on links in emails.

What to do as a Victim of a PCH Scam

If you suspect you’ve fallen victim to a Publishers Clearing House (PCH) sweepstakes scam, taking immediate action is crucial to protect yourself and prevent further harm.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on what to do if you believe you’ve been targeted:

  • Verify communications with PCH – Call Publishers Clearing House directly at 1-800-392-4190. Speak to a PCH representative who can confirm the authenticity of any communications you’ve received. They can help distinguish between genuine PCH notifications and fraudulent ones.
  • Report the scam to Publishers Clearing House – Use the official form provided by Publishers Clearing House to report the scam. PCH will share this report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to aid in their investigations and protect others from falling victim to similar scams
  • Report Fake Checks to the U.S. Postal Service Inspection Service (USPIS) – If you received a fake check through the mail, report the scam to the U.S. Postal Service Inspection Service (USPIS). You can do this online or by calling 1-877-876-2455. The USPIS issues alerts and investigates scams involving Publishers Clearing House.
  • Report scams and attempt to recover money – If you’ve sent money to scammers, report the details of the scam to the FTC through Follow the recommended steps in the FTC’s guidelines to attempt to recover your money.
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