Scammers Posing as Popular Contest Reps to Defraud Texas Seniors

by Morgan Montalvo

WOAI News

Phone  scammers are co-opting the name of one of America's best-known  sweepstakes to separate Texas seniors from their retirement incomes,  WOAI News reports.

This latest scam involves crooks posing as representatives of Publishers  Clearing House calling unwitting elders and telling them that they've  won big prizes, including huge cash sums and luxury automobiles. 

Next,  the crooks inform their potential victims that they lack the necessary  "membership" on a "mailing list," which can be covered with a Visa gift  card that seniors purchase locally. The victims are told to have the  card numbers ready to share when the "representatives" call back within  hours or the next day.

The crooks, who have been busy in Texas, convert the card numbers into cash or merchandise.

Arthur  Woodgate, a retired U.S. Army Intelligence warrant officer and computer  expert who lives in Hays County, says the scammers appear to be working  from a detailed list that includes names, cellular and landline  telephone numbers, and possibly household income levels.

Woodgate  tells News Radio 1200 WOAI the con artists began calling his home  earlier this week, first trying to reach his wife on her phone and  asking for her by name.

"Then maybe three-quarters of an hour later, my line rings and it is  this individual who speaks very clearly and slowly, and very  understandable, and he tells me that he is from the Publishers Clearing  House and that I have won a million dollars and a Mercedes-Benz,"  Woodgate says.

The caller,  Woodgate says, urged him to go to a nearby pharmacy or big-box retailer  and purchase a "vanilla" Visa Gift Card valued at $299.00, which would  cover the "mailing list membership." 

The phone crook, he says, even  offered a media coverage option during the "award delivery."

Suspecting a scam, Woodgate says he asked the "representative" for his  PCH corporate phone numbers, which turned out to be false and not in  service. 

"Then I called his number and that did not answer," says Woodgate, who next contacted local crime prevention officers.

Woodgate says the PCH scam exhibits the elements a sophisticated intelligence gathering operation.

"The way that  it was presented, and the way the man spoke, it was obvious to me that  he was used to speaking with older people who do not hear all that well.  And his enunciation was flawless, and his choice of words was clear,  and he used simple words. Is seems to me he was targeting retirees,"  says Woodgate, who says the scammers have called him several more times  this week.

"The way that  it was architected, the way that it was structured, it was very leading  - but very gently leading," says Woodgate. "If you're not young any  more and your attention is not really all that great, he would lull you  with his conversation, talking about things that were peripheral to what  he wanted."

 Woodgate says  he eventually tracked one of the numbers to Jamaica, "but I have no way  of confirming he was calling me from one of these numbers."

According to  scam alerts on the official Publishers Clearing House website, the  sweepstakes does not contact winners by telephone.

Victims have reported the PCH phone scam in and around Fort Worth and south along IH-35.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission for some time has been tracking PCH  phone scams in their various forms. 

For the latest information  information on these schemes, log on to: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2018/04/publishers-clearing-house-imposters-keep-coming

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