Publishers Clearing House Scams: How You Can Avoid Them

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You’ve been entering the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes for decades with high hopes. And then, one day, it happens. You get a phone call that you’ve won. However, before you can claim your prize, there are some additional steps to take, according to the phone representative.

Wait and take a beat before giving out your information. There are a few things you should know about potential Publishers Clearing House scams before you start spending that money.

Publisher Clearing House Scams

Though the Publisher Clearing House Sweepstakes can be legitimate and Publishers Clearing House itself is not a scam, you still need to be on the lookout for fraudsters. PCH has been running its popular and beloved sweepstakes since 1967 and has awarded more than $315 million in prizes.

However, scammers have been posing as the long-running publishing house and preying on unsuspecting individuals. There are a few scenarios scammers might use to try to separate you from your hard-earned dollars without offering anything in return. Here are a few to look out for.

Publishers Clearing House Phone Scams

Seniors in Mississippi have received phone calls claiming that they won. The catch? Supposed “winners” have to pay money for taxes first.

Some scammers even ask people to provide their Social Security number and bank account information in order to claim the prize.

Publishers Clearing House Scam Letters

Scammers aren’t just reaching out via phone calls. People have reported receiving letters claiming they won the PCH sweepstakes. In Minnesota, one letter said that the recipient had to pay $15,000 in taxes to claim their multimillion-dollar prize, AARP reported.

Make Your Money Work for You

In some cases, the letter will provide a phone number to call. Once the scammers have you on the phone, they might request payments in gift cards or cash. They could even request personal information, which they can use to steal your identity.

Scammers posing as PCH might also mail a large check and request that the “winner” cash the check and send a portion of the money back to cover fees. The check will bounce, and the recipient will be left without their expected prize winnings and may have to pay bank fees on top of that.

Signs You Didn’t Win the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes

Fortunately, it’s easy to spot a Publishers Clearing House scam if you know what to look for. Here are some signs you may be getting scammed:

  • You receive a phone call telling you you’ve won: If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from PCH, hang up immediately. PCH never calls prize winners.
  • If you receive a letter in the mail with a check: PCH often sends a letter to prize winners before the PCH Prize Patrol comes to town. But they don’t send the check in the mail. That’s a sign that your letter may not be from PCH.
  • You never entered the Sweepstakes yet you’re notified you’ve won: If you haven’t entered the PCH sweepstakes, you didn’t win. You must mail in your card or complete the registration form on the PCH website by the deadline for the next drawing.
  • You received a check larger than $10,000 in the mail: For prizes larger than $10,000, the PCH Prize Patrol arrives unannounced at your home with a giant check, roses and celebrities like Steve Harvey. You may receive a letter in advance, but you won’t receive the check via mail. If you receive a check that looks like it’s from PCH and is worth more than $10,000, it’s fake. Don’t cash it.
  • You are asked to send money or gift cards: If anyone asks you to send money to cover fees or requests your bank account information or Social Security number to claim your prize, it’s a scam. You will be responsible for paying taxes on your PCH winnings, but you don’t have to pay them upfront before you receive your prize. PCH will never ask you for money. PCH official Christopher Irving told AARP, “At some point, a scam artist will ask you to send money, to pay some type of fees… to get your prize. We do not make such requests.”

How To Confirm That You Actually Won PCH

PCH may send a letter to winners prior to arriving at your doorstep with the PCH Prize Patrol. If you receive a letter that looks like it’s from PCH, you can call PCH customer service at 800-566-4724 to confirm your winnings. 

Can You Really Win the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes?

Although PCH is a legitimate sweepstakes with winners every month, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to win. StatisticsHowTo says the odds of winning the lifelong $5,000 a week prize is 1 in 6.2 billion. Your odds of a one-time cash prize of just $2,500 is roughly 1 in 130 million.

PCH says the odds of winning the last sweepstakes, which offered $300,000 per year for 29 years with an additional $6.3 million payment on the 30th year, was one in 7.2 billion. On the other hand, the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot are roughly 1 in 292 million, but you’ll need to pay to enter.

Make Your Money Work for You

Final Take To GO

With sweepstakes season in full swing, it’s important to protect your interests, your identity and your money. While winning the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes may seem too good to be true, it can happen. Just make sure to confirm your prizes by calling PCH directly. Do not send money, gift cards or share personal information with anyone who may not be from PCH.

Dawn Allcot contributed to the reporting for this article.

Our in-house research team and on-site financial experts work together to create content that’s accurate, impartial, and up to date. We fact-check every single statistic, quote and fact using trusted primary resources to make sure the information we provide is correct. You can learn more about GOBankingRates’ processes and standards in our editorial policy.


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