COLORADO SPRINGS — Fraudsters want you to know you’re so close to claiming a massive cash grand prize. All they need is for you to pay a fee and to give up some information.
”He called and left a message first and I didn’t hear the phone. So this was his voicemail, “Call us back. You are the winner of $2.5 Million and a check of $5,000 a week for the rest of your life,” said Colorado Springs resident Robin Palazzolo.
The call was supposedly from the popular Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes. Palazzolo said she was shocked to get the phone call but hoped it was real.
”I thought wow, I’m a winner, everyone does. I hadn’t entered for years, but I think all of us have entered once or twice,” said Palazzolo.
So she called back.
”He said I know you don’t think it’s real, but it’s very real. A lot of people don’t believe me when I call and he went on and on about how this is a life-changing event,” said Palazzolo.
But there was a catch. She had to go to the bank and deposit $5,000 to unlock the prize and the man on the phone, an imposter, told her this was standard protocol
”Well, we have to pay for the prize patrol. They’ll meet you there with the balloons and the check a black and gold van,” the man on the phone told Palazzolo.
Feeling uneasy about the request, she added her husband to a three-way call and he wasn’t buying the scheme.
”My husband told him, why don’t you get a real job? He said to hang up, just go ahead and hang up,” Palazzolo said.
Publisher’s Clearing House has legitimate sweepstakes. You’ve probably seen the advertisements on TV with Steve Harvey, but on its website, it warns against phone calls like this and even phony solicitations being sent in the mail.
Last year, Elaine was told on the phone by an imposter she won $3 million.
"I was one of them, I didn't say they weren't happening, I just said it had never happened to me. These scam calls do happen. They are scary," she said.
Palazzolo believes people will make the mistake of paying fraudsters thousands in situations like this because she was almost one of them.
”I fell for it for a few minutes. I was dragged in and I’m embarrassed to say that because I think I’m pretty smart, but he really actually just suckered me in,” said Palazzolo.
If you get one of these imposter sweepstakes calls, there are red flags that can help you hang up fast.
According to Publishers Clearing House:
- It will never call, email, or text to say you are a winner as contacts are made in person
- Winning is always free. It will never ask you for payments of any kind upfront
- It will never send you a check and ask you to send back some of the money
Publishers Clearing House partners with the Federal Trade Commission, U.S. Postal Service and law enforcement to try to stop these fraudsters.
This article was written by Patrick Nelson for KOAA.