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Publisher's Clearing House Scam hits Tampa Bay area

5:19 PM, Jan 14, 2011   |    comments
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Pinellas Park, Florida - When the phone rang on Wednesday, Jennie Adams, 73, thought she got great news.

"He said I won $495,000 and I'm going, 'That's unbelievable,'" said Adams.

The caller said he was with Publisher's Clearing House.  Since she had just received a letter from the famous sweepstakes provider this week, she got excited.

"All night long, I kept thinking, 'Oh, boy, what am I going to do with all that money?'" said Adams.

The next day, the phone rang again.  This time, the caller claimed to be from Customs in Miami.

"In order to for me to come down and claim that money, I have to have one percent of the amount the check was."

The scammer wanted $4,950 up front before she would hand over Adam's supposed sweepstakes winnings.

That is when Adams knew something was wrong.

"Publisher's Clearing House doesn't make you come to them.  They come to you! That was it. I hung up," said Adams.

Detective E.J. Stevens of Pinellas Park Police applauds Adams' keen sense, although he is not surprised about the sweepstakes scam.  He gets up to twenty new cases of fraud a week.  He says they all look the same with victims of all ages.  He says timing is everything.

"It comes at this time of the year, so the scam artists are going to send things out like that," said Stevens.

It turns out, Publisher's Clearing House knows about these scams and even issued a consumer alert on its website in hopes of protecting its participants. 

"Never accept any free money. If it is too good to be true, don't do it," said Stevens.

Law enforcement says, usually, people wait to report a suspected scam because they are embarrassed.  With fraud on the rise, officers urge you to let them know, even if you catch the crime before you become a victim.

Erica Pitzi, 10 News Reporter

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