COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A Columbus man thought he won big when Publishers Clearing House came calling.
Tim Walker got the unexpected and surprising call in August, from a man claiming to be with PCH, who told Walker he won $1 million and a brand new car.
“He said, ‘This is no joke,’ or, ‘This is a real thing. We have a black BMW, a red BMW, and a green BMW. Which color do you like?’ I said, ‘Well, of course, black,'” said Walker.
The caller went on to tell Walker he would just need to pay the taxes on his new ride, and to make that payment with gift cards.
“One was for $500, the other was for $100,” Walker said. “So, he told me to stay on the phone with him while I go get the money. While I go get the cards.”
Walker went to a nearby CVS to make the purchase. But before he could buy, the cashier had a question for him.
“She said, ‘By the way, are you getting these for somebody?’ And I was like, ‘Well, this guy says I won a lot of money.’ She said, ‘I’m not selling them to you. You’re being scammed,’” Walker said.
That’s when Walker hung up.
“We really encourage hanging up because scammers are professional con artists,” said Lee Anne Lanigan, Director of Customer Relations and Investigations with the Better Business Bureau of Central Ohio.
The BBB said the so-called “Publishers Clearing House scam” is one of the ways fraudsters have been tricking people out of their money for years.
“Because people are so used to seeing the commercials and the balloons and the limousine and the roses and it’s exciting… and then you get the call,” Lanigan said, adding that the scam typically happens in the same way it did for Walker. That’s why you need to know the warning signs. Remember that you should never have to pay for a prize.
It also helps when retailers, like the cashier in Walker’s case, are aware of these types of scams.
“Love that retailers are stepping up and protecting their customers,” said Lanigan. “They don’t want people being taken advantage of. Period.”