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‘You may already be a winner’ – or not

Two scams hitting area

It’s the season for the prize patrol of Publishers Clearing House to dole out the cash and make TV moments, like last month’s winner in suburban St. Louis. It’s also the time when con artists call intended victims to convince them they’re winners.

A Hardin woman was recently the target of a scam claiming she was a Publisher Clearing House winner via her cell phone. She was told to call a phone number and give them the confirmation number she was provided to verify the contest’s legitimacy. Later, she was instructed to buy a prepaid card and give the credit card information to them, saying the money went toward taxes to the IRS.

The woman, who asked not to be identified, didn’t take the bait. The calls originated from a Kingston, Jamaica phone number (876-369-1341), she said, which made her suspicious.

On its Web site, Publishers Clearing House says winners are contacted by mail or in person and never by phone. Soliciting money for a sweepstakes is also illegal.

The next real $1 million Publishers Clearing House winner will be announced Nov. 26 on NBC. Odds for winning are 1 in 1.3 billion.

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A fake check scam, well known at the Missouri Attorney General’s office, is also been reported in the area. Calling itself the World International Consumers Sweepstake, a letter with a fake check tells the recipient they have a won a big prize, this time $153,750. The check enclosed, $3,750, is to cover taxes and processing fees.  All one has to do to get their winnings is to deposit the check and wire the money, either through Western Union or Money Gram. The problem is the check is no good, even though it appears to be a legitimate check from Webster Bank, an actual bank. If cashed, you’re out the money.

The overseas scam, calling themselves The National Lottery, says its based in the United Kingdom with offices in Chicago, United Arab Emirates and South Cyprus. The “winner” was selected from shopping at U.S. stores, like Walmart or Kmart. This type of scam rated No. 9 in Attorney General Chris Koster’s Top 10 scams of 2012.

For information on how to spot fake checks, go to www.fakechecks.org or contact the Missouri Attorney General’s consumer complaint hotline at 800-392-8222. Use this phone number to also report scams or go online to www.consumer.ago.mo.gov to file a complaint.

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