The scam that just won’t go away
| April 1, 2021 1:00 AM
Based on feedback from Press readers, the Publishers Clearing House scam is still circulating on email, phone calls and Facebook messenger.
The notification tells the recipient they are a big winner. Crooks are getting more sophisticated, making it difficult to tell if you’ve really won or not and scammers are adept at making people believe that they are really affiliated with Publishers Clearing House when they are not.
What makes Publisher’s Clearing House so attractive to scammers is the familiarity most consumers have with this company and because people really want to believe that they have won a big prize. This time all the winner had to do was clear the IRS taxes by paying $999 in advance. (The Press has also documented cases where "recipients" were told to forward $35,000.)
Here are a few tips on PCH notifications:
- The company does not use email, telephone or bulk mail informing you that you’ve won a big prize.
- Prizes of $500 or greater are awarded by either certified or express letter or in person by one of the Prize Patrol personnel.
- Winners will never be asked to pay for taxes or fees up front to claim a prize.
- The company will never ask for personal information such as your address, bank account number or driver’s license number. Also, keep in mind that you might be asked to fill out an affidavit to verify eligibility if you win but not when you enter.
- If you do receive a check and are asked to cash it and hand over money, that's a sure sign of a scam.
An Idaho couple almost got scammed earlier this year when they received a phone call that they had won $250,000 from PCH. To claim the prize, all they had to do was drive to the nearest Walmart to wire $850 to a random address in Florida.
While the couple did make the drive, they grew suspicious and never sent the money. They were hounded by the scammers for three days, insisting that all they needed to do was wire the money to collect the prize.
If you believe you've been targeted by a sweepstakes scam, please report it to the Federal Trade Commission at https://reportfraud.ftc.gov/#/?pid=B.
• • •
Norton Security fake notices
Crooks are always devising clever ways to get us to reply to their scam notices. A Coeur d’Alene reader forwarded an email order receipt she received for a renewal notice from email@example.com.
This notice congratulated the customer on her great decision for now being part of the Norton 365 device protection family.
The notice also included the order description, order date and product key. Of course, our reader did not order this security service so the notice went on to inform her that for inquiries like installation, errors or cancellation, feel free to contact the company at 1-844-678-0074.
The computer-generated invoice showed a charge of $499.99 but it wasn’t clear how the order was being charged. The notices are vague enough because the crooks are hoping that we pick up the phone and call the number provided or click on the link to report an error.
Our reader checked her accounts to make sure she wasn’t charged and after confirming that she wasn’t, she deleted the message. Smart move.
• • •
Important tax dates
The tax deadline for filing your 2020 taxes has been extended to May 17, for both federal and Idaho returns. If you need to make estimated tax payments, those will be due April 15. If you need to file for an extension, the deadline for filing your return will be Oct. 15.
According to the IRS Commissioner, the IRS is working to make sure people get their needed tax refunds as quickly as possible while also making sure they receive any remaining stimulus payments they're eligible for.
Note that if you didn’t receive the full amount of your Economic Impact Payments (aka stimulus checks), you'll need to file a 2020 tax return to claim any amounts you are still owed.
If you did get the full amount, you don’t need to complete any information about the Recovery Rebate Credit on your 2020 tax return.
The most recent payment of $1,400 per person will be reflected on your 2021 tax return. If your income was $72,000 or lower for 2020 for a single taxpayer, check out the IRS Free File program at https://www.irs.gov/filing/free-file-do-your-federal-taxes-for-free.
If you have any tax-related questions, contact a local tax preparer who may be able to assist you.
• • •
Remember: I’m on your side.
• • •
If you have encountered a consumer issue that you have questions about or think our readers should know about, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 208-274-4458. As The CDA Press Consumer Gal, I’m here to help. I’m a copywriter working with businesses on marketing strategy, a columnist, a veterans advocate and a consumer advocate living in Coeur d’Alene.