Grapevine Police are investigating a scam targeting an elderly woman in our city.
A man claiming to be with “Global Consumer Awards” (and falsely claiming to be working for Publishers Clearing House) first contacted the woman by phone, stating she won a sweepstakes valued at $15,000,000. He then mailed her a cashier’s check for $2,000, which she deposited into her bank account. Last week, he called her again, instructing her to send a $2,000 check to a man in Utah to cover taxes on her future prizes. She agreed.
She then received another call to send a cashier’s check for $13,000 to a man in Florida, in order to cover remaining costs (taxes and fees) for her $15,000,000 prize. She mailed the check, and still believes she will be getting her prize money.
Another Grapevine resident also received a phone called from someone claiming to be with Publishers Clearing House, announcing they too won the sweepstakes. When asked to verify they were with the company, the caller mailed a letter with prize money and tax information, along with photos of a car, an FBI badge, and a short bio on their “claims agent”.
While these setups may not sound legitimate as you read this alert, make no mistake – they can seem real when you first get them in the mail (especially true with our seniors). Scammers spend time cultivating relationships with elderly victims. They gain their trust, and are very good at convincing people they will get prize money.
In the first case, where the victim actually sent them money, the crime was only reported because the victim’s son found out and called police. We encourage all of you to talk with your loved ones, and if you discover they have been a victim, report it to police immediately. Sometimes victims become too embarrassed to admit they gave someone money – or they still believe the scam is real – and will hide details from family members. For this reason, we want to share a few pages from the letter sent to one of our residents, so you can show them to relatives. We highlighted a few instances where people are told not to tell anyone about their winnings. (The letter excerpt can be found at the bottom of this article).
We also want to pass along some information that may help guide your conversation with loved ones:
* The real Publishers Clearing House will never call, email, or send letters to its big winners. Any prize over $10,000 will be delivered to your home unannounced. (Smaller prizes may be announced in a certified letter)
* You never have to pay money to receive a prize from any legitimate sweepstakes company.
* You will never receive a “partial payment” check, then be asked to return a portion of the money.
* Never respond to someone claiming to be a “claims agent”. These are scammers trying to get more of your personal information or money.
* Do not give out confidential information to enter a sweepstakes.
* If you did not enter the sweepstakes, you will not be able to win.
* Look closely at any written correspondence: scammers will often have typos, misspellings, or grammar problems.