Sheriff Grady Judd is warning residents to be aware of a new scam that the Polk County Sheriff's Office is seeing reported -- the scam is fraudulently using the "Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes" name to victimize the elderly.
Here's how the scam works: The elderly victim receives a call from someone who knows his/her full name, and who tells him/her that they are the lucky winner of the nationally-recognized "Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes." The victim is then told to purchase a Green Dot moneypak* worth several hundred dollars, and then to give that money to the suspect. The victim is assured that once this transaction takes place, he/she will receive their sizable sweepstakes earnings.
Fortunately, no victims have been physically harmed as a result of this scam - the most recent victim was told that the FBI, police, and Sweepstakes officials would come to his home and drive him to CVS to purchase the moneypak, and then drive him to the bank. Instead, the victim was smart and called PCSO. This incident could have turned into a robbery, had the victim complied with the scam artist's demands.
Another victim, an elderly woman, was notified by mail that she was a sweepstakes winner. Between January and May 2012, she purchased approximately $5,000 worth of Moneypaks and provided them over the telephone to the scam artist. That money cannot be recovered.
*According to www.moneypak.com: MoneyPak can be purchased at thousands of stores nationwide, including major retailers such as Walmart, Walgreens, CVS/pharmacy, Rite Aid, Kmart, Kroger and Meijer. The MoneyPak works as a ‘cash top-up card.’ Once you purchase it at a participating retailer with cash, you can use it to reload prepaid cards, add money to a PayPal account without using a bank account, or make same-day payments to major companies. You can add any amount from $20 to $500 onto a MoneyPak at most retailers. You can add up to $1,000 at Walmart.
This warning is also posted on the Moneypak website:
How to Stop A Scam:
Use your MoneyPak number only with businesses on our approved list. If anyone else asks for your MoneyPak number or information from your receipt, it’s probably a scam. Don’t give your MoneyPak number to pay for something you buy through the classifieds or to collect a prize or sweepstakes. Do not give away your receipt information to another party either. If you give your MoneyPak number or information about the purchase transaction to a criminal, Green Dot is not responsible for paying you back. Your MoneyPak is not a bank account. The funds are not insured against loss.
"Scams like this have one common them: the caller is insistent that you will be the recipient of great rewards, in the form of cash or prizes, and the caller continues to insist that you comply with his demands. Don't fall for this! First, try to identify who the caller is, and get a callback number. Secondly, call law enforcement and report it. Also, the Internet is a valuable tool for learning about the latest scams. You can help us stop scam artists, and avoid falling prey to a scam like this: educate yourself, and report anything suspicious." - Sheriff Grady Judd.
Tips to avoid being a victim of any telephone or email scam:
■Never give your Social Security number—or personal information of any kind—over the telephone or online unless you initiate the contact.
■Be suspicious of any telephone call or e-mail with urgent requests for personal financial information. The caller or e-mailer may include upsetting or exciting (but false) statements to get you to react immediately.
■Avoid filling out forms in e-mail messages that request personal information.
■Ensure that your browser is up-to-date and security patches have been applied.
■Check your bank, credit, and debit card statements regularly to make sure that there are no unauthorized transactions. If anything looks suspicious, contact your bank and all card issuers.
■When you contact companies, use numbers provided on the back of cards or statements
Check all listings: company names, phone numbers, and addresses, on the Internet placing the words 'SCAM' or 'FRAUD' behind what you are looking for. This will help to determine if others have already reported a similar incident.