A Port Chester couple thought they were living a dream, just like the one they've seen in many television commercials.
They got a call on Saturday from a man telling them they had won $2.5 million from Publishers Clearninghouse. But Port Chester police say the call was yet another in a string of attempts to scam senior citizens out of their savings.
This time, however, police say the targeted victims realized what was happening to them before they had lost any money.
"This time, the folks did the right thing and it had a happy ending," said Port Chester Police Lt. James Ladeairous. Just a week ago, a Port Chester when he fell victim to a version of the "grandparent scam" that law enforcement officials say is used by con artists across the country.
While the latest incident did not use the same technique as the last one — an urgent call from a grandson who says he's been arrested and needs bail money fast — Ladeairous said the scams have much in common.
A 76-year-old Port Chester man and his 73-year-old wife went to Port Chester Police Headquarters on Monday to get help because they thought they were being scammed. And, police agreed.
The scam started on Saturday, when the Port Chester man got a call from someone claiming to be from Publishers Clearinghouse, which describes itself as "a multi-channel direct marketer of value-based merchandise, magazines and promotional offers and a leading provider of digital "play and win" entertainment.
The victim was told he and his wife had won $2.5 million. Although he was excited by the possibility, the victim was on his way to church and told the caller he'd have to get back to him.
On Monday, the victim called back, but was quickly directed to call another number, which he did. Ladeairous said a different man answered the supposed prize hotline and this time the victim was told to go to a nearby store to purchase a $3,900 MoneyPak card – bought at retailers with cash, it can be used to reload prepaid cards, add money to a PayPal account without using a bank account, or make same-day payments to major companies.
That's when the victim realized that something was not right and he and his wife sought out help from the police. In the other recent scam case, the victim did not seek help from the police until it was too late and his money was gone.
Ladeairous says that anyone who is offered something that sounds too good to be true must be careful that they are not falling victim to a scam. He said that in cases like this, or the grandparent scam in which a loved-one says he needs help getting out of a jam with police, can call local police to help check out the story.
- If someone sends you a check and asks you to send money back in return, don’t! – If you are told you have won a prize and are asked to cash a check and send or wire money back, do not! The check is a fake. Legitimate sweepstakes will never ask you to pay a fee to claim a prize.
- If the company name sounds familiar or legitimate and you assume you can trust it, think again! – Scammers oftentimes use the names of legitimate companies in an attempt to deceive and gain consumers trust. Criminals will pretend to be affiliated with well-known, recognized and trusted brand names. Always contact the legitimate company and talk to one of their representatives.
- If someone asks you to wire money to claim a sweepstakes prize, don’t! – Most scammers will advise consumers to wire money via a money-transfer service. Con-artists want money sent to them via a money-transfer service because it’s quick, it’s cash and it’s virtually impossible to trace and recover. Wiring money is like sending cash and once it’s gone, it’s usually gone.