By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Roy Alexander of New Albany won $1 million from Publishers Clearing House.
Or so he thought.
The award letter and the cashier’s check for $9,873.20 – to cover insurance, taxes and processing – was a fraud. Alexander said he realized the scam before it was too late but worries others might fall for it if not careful.
“It’s awful,” said Alexander, who got the letter Thursday. “And everything looks so legit that some poor soul is going to fall for it and send those people $9,000.”
The Mississippi Attorney General’s office is aware of the scam, said spokeswoman Jan Schaefer, calling it a common scheme that comes in many forms but all following the same concept:
* You get an email, fax, or letter saying you’ve won a prize.
* You’re told to pay a processing fee first and, after you do, never get the prize. Or you’re sent a counterfeit check, asked to deposit it, and use a portion of that check to pay the processing fee.
* The counterfeit check looks real enough to fool the banks but ultimately bounces, leaving your account short hundreds or thousands of dollars.
Schaefer advised residents to report potential scams to the police or the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division.
Alexander said he reported the scam to Wells Fargo, but not until after he had already deposited the check at his local bank. He was supposed to wire $9,000 of it back to the scammers for “fees.”
After depositing the check, Alexander said he called the number provided on the phony sweepstakes letter and talked to a man named Mike Bright, who told him to keep everything a secret and he’d get his $1 million Monday.
Alexander said that was enough to spook him, so he withdrew the check and took it to the bank from which it allegedly was processed – Wells Fargo.
Publishers Clearing House said on its website that it notifies winners by certified mail or in person and that there are never any processing fees, taxes or any other special charges involved in claiming a prize.