Who wouldn’t be happy to find out they just won millions of dollars from Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes?
Robert Warnat wasn’t.
“I thought it was a scam even though the check looks legitimate.”
Mr. Warnat didn’t get the big check, and “Prize Patrol” showing up at his door. He got a letter in the mail.
The letter claiming to be from Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes stated Warnat had won 5 million dollars. It came with a check for $4100 that was supposedly part of his winnings. It had instructions for what do with the check.
“It smelled from the start,” said Warnat.
Instead of calling to activate the check as the letter instructed, he called Troubleshooters.
Why was Mr. Warnat so skeptical of the check from the sweepstakes winnings?
“Cause I didn’t enter,” said Warnat.
We were there when Mr. Warnat finally phoned in to get to the bottom of it.
The person on the phone wanted him to deposit the $4100 check into his bank account and wire them $2900 of it for taxes and processing fees of the 5 million dollars they said he was going to get.
“Why don’t I just mail you back the check, you take out the fees and mail me the difference,” Warnat asked the person.
They hung up on him shortly after.
Publishers Clearing House tells us they didn’t write the letter. Adding, you never have to pay anything when you win their sweepstakes. A Publishers Clearing House spokesman told us they always show up with the big check when somebody wins a large amount of money.
We tried to locate “Advanced Financial,” the other company mentioned in the letter. There is no record of them at the Florida address they claimed to be located. A JP Morgan Chase Bank spokesperson verified the check is fake, but admitted it does look authentic.
If he had deposited the check and sent the company the $2900, he would have been on the hook for the cash when the check bounced days later.
Mr. Warnat is 80 years old he thinks that’s why he was targeted.
“Older people are extremely trusting,” said Marie Peck-Llewellyn with the Connecticut State Department on Aging.
Crooks pray on that trusting nature, which is why the State Department on Aging has a program to educate senior citizens. The organization even works with the postal service to protect seniors from telemarketing and mail fraud schemes. Their website lists a number of scams targeting the elderly.
“There were so many places that we are so concerned about,” said Peck-Llewellyn. “Issues such as fraud, issues such as exploitation.”
Peck-Llewellyn said loved ones can be the first line of defense against scammers looking to defraud the elderly. She urges caregivers, adult children, and even neighbors to speak with them regularly so they don’t become victims of scams.
Warnat hopes other seniors will be as savvy as he is, but he admits it would have been nice to really win a sweepstakes.
“I could have used the 5 million,” said Warnat.