Warning! Fake Publishers Clearing House scams

Publishers Clearing House will give a million dollar prize to some lucky winner this month. Unfortunately, thousands of people will be duped by con artists pretending to be PCH.

People across the country are fooled by this every year, Instead of winning money, they're losing thousands of dollars.

Alice Johnson of Kirkland got a call this week from a man claiming she'd won the million dollar prize plus a new, 2012 Mercedes. She got suspicious when the prize official gave her instructions to send a money gram for $250 to pay the taxes -- but a little voice got the best of her.

"But I thought, well, $250 wasn't that bad. I would take my chance," she said.

Though not a big gambler, Alice figured she'd roll the dice -- just in case. She wired the money, as instructed. Some low-life pocketed the cash. No Car. No million dollars.

A check on her telephone caller list revealed the call came from Jamaica. A quick search online confirmed it's a nationwide scam.

Publisher's Clearing House even warns about the scam on its website:

"At PCH the winning is always free and you NEVER have to pay to claim a prize award. Recognizing the difference between legitimate sweepstakes and other types of offers that may not be legitimate will help you protect yourself and your family," the warning reads.

It goes on to say that, "If someone contacts you claiming to be from PCH, and tells you that you've won a prize award and then asks you to send a payment or money card in order to claim the prize -- STOP! You have not heard from the real PCH."

If you send money to claim a prize, the scammers will just call back and trick you for more. They figure they've got a sucker they can string along. After Alice wired the $250, the scammers called to say the Mercedes was being held up because of insurance. She needed to wire $500 for insurance coverage.

"I said No! No. No. No. No," Alice exclaimed.

Bottom line: If someone claims you've won a prize but need to pay to claim it, hang up.

"Don't ever try anything where you have to give money first," Alice warns. "These guys are smooth. They're very good."

More information about the scams is available here, here, here and here.