Tahlequah Daily Press

April 18, 2014

Phone scam takes $500 from couple

By JOSH NEWTON
Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — Authorities are warning Cherokee County residents to watch for a costly phone scam that recently targeted a local couple and ended in their loss of $500.

According to sheriff’s deputies, a couple contacted authorities after losing $500 to the scam. The couple received a phone call from a man who identified himself only as “Mr. Green.” He told the couple they had won $1.5 million through Publisher’s Clearing House, but to collect the money, the couple would have to purchase a $500 money card to cover various fees.

Deputies said the couple initially suspected the call was a scam, but felt “Mr. Green” was “honest and believable.” The man even convinced the couple that representatives of the FBI and the IRS were listening in on the phone call to ensure it was a legitimate transaction.

The caller stayed on the phone with one of the victims while he drove to a store and purchased the $500 money card. At some point, “Mr. Green” even told the victim he was about 28 minutes away from arriving in Tahlequah with the winnings.

The victims provided the man with the money card’s numbers, and the scammer then said that the IRS had determined they had not provided the proper tax forms. “Mr. Green” told the victims they would have to pay the taxes before collecting their winnings. The couple were first told they would have to pay $2,500, but the number later dwindled to $1,000. According to deputies, the victims told the caller they would not pay that much, and were then told that they would be assessed a “storage fee” of $1,600 per day if they did not comply.

The victims then determined the call to be a scam. The caller told the couple he would call them back the following day to give them time to think about what they wanted to do. Deputies said the couple realized then that they had lost $500, but wanted to report the scam in hopes that others would be aware and not lose hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Deputies said the caller identification from the scam said “Kingston JM” and had a number of (876) 423-9454.

Officials with the real Publishers Clearing House warn that winnings through the sweepstakes are “always free and you never have to pay to claim a prize award.”

“If someone contacts you claiming to be from PCH, and tells you that you’ve won a prize award – then asks you to send a payment or money card in order to claim the prize – STOP! You have not heard from the real PCH,” according to the Publishers Clearing House website.

According to PCH, scammers have even accessed the names of real PCH employees and have used the names in their criminal activities.

“If you are ever contacted by someone claiming to represent PCH, or claiming to be one of our employees,  and asked to send or wire money (for any reason whatsoever, including taxes); or send a pre-paid gift card or Green Dot Moneypak card in order to claim a sweepstakes prize – DON’T! It’s a SCAM,” the PCH website warns. “If you are sent a check, told it’s a partial prize award, and asked to cash it and send a portion back to claim the full prize award, DON’T. The check is fake, but the SCAM is real! Publishers Clearing House does not operate this way and would never ask for money to claim a prize award. PCH employees would never contact you personally or in advance to notify you of a prize award. Our prize awards are presented just the way you see in our popular TV commercials, ‘live and in person’ by our Prize Patrol, with balloons, champagn e and check in hand – and with no advance notification.”

PCH encourages potential victims of a scam involving the Publishers Clearing House name to call toll-free (800) 645-9242.

jnewton@tahlequahdailypress.com