Scammers seem to get savvier every day. There is a new scam going on that begins with a phone call, usually to your cell phone. I have received a few of these calls myself on my cell phone. The caller will tell you that you have won either the Publisher’s Clearinghouse sweepstakes or a Caribbean cruise. Sounds great…right? Wrong! My first clue was that I had not entered a Publisher’s Clearinghouse sweepstakes in many years!
The first distinctive sign of the scam is that you are being called by a number located in Antigua, Jamaica, Barbados or some other Caribbean nation. If you do not answer, they will leave an “urgent” voice message that you need to call back in order to claim your prize. DO NOT make this call. Your cell phone company will charge you international charges. This can increase your cell phone bill by hundreds of dollars. If you answer the call, the person on the other end will tell you that you have either won the Publisher’s Clearinghouse sweepstakes or a Caribbean cruise. They may even use the name of a real Publisher’s Clearinghouse employee! They will keep you on the line for an extended period of time to increase your phone charges. The person may ask you to drive to the store and purchase a pre-paid money card. They will then ask you to send it to a certain place in order to claim your prize or to call them back or keep you on the line running up your phone bill and ask you to read them the money card numbers over the phone so that they can load funds onto their card. They then drain the balance on the card and you are out the amount, usually $500 to $1000, that you paid for the pre-paid card. Publisher’s Clearinghouse has reported on their website that they would never ask for money to claim a prize.
Further, if you receive a check from any sweepstakes that requests you to cash it and send back a portion for any type of fee, including taxes, this is a scam. Do NOT cash that check – it will be returned to your bank and then you will owe your bank! I have had clients who have had to file a bankruptcy just to get out from under the debt left on them by one of these types of scams. These scammers will send checks for well into the thousands! I have seen a story about one that was $1.6 million dollars!
Unfortunately, there is not much that law enforcement can do to these offshore scam artists. However, depending on who has contacted you, you may have some remedies under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act to stop the telemarketing or solicitations.
Our firm handles claims under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act as well as bankruptcy and other financial problems. If you would like to discuss any financial issues that you are having please contact our office nearest you to schedule a free consultation with a licensed and knowledgeable attorney.
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