Scam Alert: “Winners” Lose Big to Imposters Posing as Publishers Clearing House

You’ve won – a new car! Millions of dollars! Cash for life! The crazy thing is you don’t even recall entering the contest. Con artists pose as Publishers Clearing House and play on our desire to “get rich quick.”

How the Scam Works

You receive a phone call, text message, email, social media message or even a letter in the mail claiming you’ve won millions of dollars or another high-value prize through what impostures claim is Publishers Clearing House. The correspondence seems real. It’s complete with official seals and contact information for the contest organizer. It typically lists affiliation with legitimate organizations, such as Better Business Bureau, the IRS, the FDIC, and major retailers.

The catch? You are responsible for paying shipping and handling, insurance, taxes, and other fees before you can claim your prize. Scammers may pressure you to pay quickly, claiming that if the fees aren’t paid in this specific way and right on time, you’ll forfeit your prize money.

Other times the con artist may send you a check for the prize money. They will ask you to deposit it and wire a portion of the money to cover “taxes and fees.”  Unfortunately, the check is a fake, and the money you wired is long gone.

A few thousand dollars may not sound like much compared to the millions you’ve just won. However, con artists keep asking you, the “lucky winner,” to pay again and again. But it’s never enough to get the funds transferred.  Of course, in the end, your prize money never existed.

The real Publishers Clearing House is a BBB Accredited Business with a good rating, and it never asks people to pay upfront fees for anything. The company is frequently and fraudulently mimicked by scammers because of its reputation for real prizes. Like most imposter scams, the con artists steal the good name of a legitimate company in order to fool their targets.

How to Avoid the Scam

  • Reach out to Publishers Clearing House: If you are contacted by a scammer impersonating PCH, report by calling (800) 392-4190. Also, PCH provides a tollfree customer service number (800-645-9242), which consumers can call at any time to check on suspicious behavior.
  • Be wary of unsolicited correspondence. If you receive a notice out of the blue and can’t recall entering the contest, it’s likely a scam. Look for typos and misspellings. They are tell-tale signs of a scam.
  • Never pay fees to claim a prize. You should never have to pay any fees upfront before receiving winnings. Not even taxes.
  • Keep track of any contests you enter. You can’t win a contest you didn’t enter. If you often enter contests and sweepstakes, keep track of them. This will help you spot a fake contest.

For More Information

Get more tips for spotting a Publisher Clearing House scam on their website’s fraud information center.

To learn more about lottery scams and how they work, see for BBB’s study on these scams and this BBB tip for advice on spotting and avoiding sweepstake scams.

If you’ve been the victim of this or any scam, report it to BBB Scam Tracker to help others avoid falling into the same trap.