Sweepstakes claims just phone scam

A Columbus man didn’t fall for the sweepstakes phone scam bait of cash and a car, and is warning other seniors to be wary of callers promising prizes.

Eighty-three-year-old Lee Trapp said he received a call recently from a man claiming to be from Publishers Clearing House, the well-known sweepstakes company.

The caller told Trapp that he had won a second-place prize of $2.5 million and a Mercedes-Benz valued at $65,000 in a random drawing.

Trapp said he had heard of others being taken advantage of through a similar type of phone call scam.

The caller went on to tell Trapp that the drawing was sponsored by a bank and that two FBI agents would need to interview him, along with a lawyer, Trapp said.

Trapp was then told a portion of his prize money would be going to the government for an investigation and Trapp would have to pay $1,500 to receive the prize money.

The caller then asked for Trapp’s bank account information, which Trapp refused to give.

Trapp asked to talk to the company’s public relations representative, who was unable to answer basic questions.

Trapp then ended the conversation and called the Columbus Police Department, where he said officers told him this scam has been going around the area. Sweepstakes scams, including one called the Publishers Clearing House scam, are some of the most commonly reported to the Indiana Attorney General’s Office, said Molly Johnson, consumer affairs public information officer for the state office.

Since the beginning of the year, 198 consumers have called the state office to report the phone scam calls. In 2014, nearly 850 people called, Johnson said.

The attorney general’s office encourages anyone who has received phone calls similar to this to report them by filing a complaint at indianaconsumer.com or by calling 1-888-834-9969.

“I would tell other people just not to talk to them,” Trapp said. “I know a lot of elderly people can get sucked in on this. … Be careful if you get a call like this.”

For more information

The real Publishers Clearing House does not call winners, according to the company’s website and a blog it is publishing to warn people about the nationwide phone scam.

The company advises anyone receiving a call from someone claiming to be from Publishers Clearing House to hang up and report the call to authorities.

Calls should be reported to IndianaConsumer.com or 1-888-834-9969.

Public Clearing House officials said it does not call winners in advance and the company does not ask winners for money to claim a prize.

If you have questions or are concerned that you are being scammed, call the Public Clearing House customer service line at 800-392-4190.