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Publishers Clearing House Scams: How to Spot & Avoid Them

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Publishers Clearing House, founded in 1953, is a direct marketing company that markets merchandise and magazine subscriptions, with prize-based games. While PCH’s sweepstakes are most certainly legitimate, this has stopped scammers from trying to exploit the delight of ‘winners’ everywhere. 

So, with growing uncertainty surrounding what real wins actually look like. What can be learned in order to best avoid stepping into fraudsters’ traps?

What is a Publishers Clearing House Scam?

Put simply, Publishers Clearing House scams are orchestrated by fraudsters that seek to financially exploit people, either by posing as PCH itself, or by claiming to be affiliated with the company. 

Hiding behind a long-established, recognized name like PCH is part of the con, and there’s the emotional manipulation angle, too. When we humans ‘win’, dopamine – responsible for pleasure and excitement – is quickly produced.

Getting a ‘joyful buzz’ isn’t inherently a bad thing, sure; but it certainly could lead a person to react in haste, instead of taking the time to make a more informed, cautious decision.

How to Spot a Publishers Clearing House Scam

The best way to evade PCH scams is by familiarizing yourself with what to expect. Here are some of the most common red flags to remain on guard for when scrutinizing potential scams, no matter the form they take:

  • No Payment, No Prize. Asking a ‘winner’ to cough up in order to receive their prize is one of the oldest tricks in the scammer’s handbook. If a prize notification asks for upfront money to cover something, such as taxes, customs or an admin/release fee, it’s a con, plain and simple. Furthermore, don’t fall into the trap of depositing cheques and then sending the money back – those cheques will be spring-loaded, leaving you out of pocket.
  • Big Winners Aren’t Called/Emailed. PCH will never call or email winners of big prizes, or notify them via a bulk letter. The company will only reach out via their official Prize Patrol (in-person) service or via a certified/express letter. 
  • PCH Don’t Need Private Information. If you’re filling out a ‘PCH entry form’ that’s asking for private information, it’s probably on a fake PCH website built to harvest your info. While PCH may require you to fill out an affidavit to verify a win, they will never need it upon initial entry.
  • Beware Facebook Scams. While PCH does have its own Facebook page, it’s the fake ones you need to watch out for. These copycat pages are built to match, with colour schemes, photos, graphics and logos pulled over. These pages can actually fool a lot of PCH fans into following, and when they do, scammers send them ‘prize winner’ messages containing fraudulent instructions for things like upfront payments.
  • Winners Aren’t Notified via FB. Keeping on the subject of Facebook, always keep in mind that PCH will never contact winners using this social media platform.

How to Prevent Publishers Clearing House Scams

Nobody wants to be struck with that sinking feeling that they’ve unwittingly become a fraudster’s latest victim. So, to keep out of harm’s grasp, here are several ways to avoid falling for any potential scams that may find you:

  • Too Good to be True. Winning in life can feel particularly exhilarating – especially when it involves games, competitions and gambling. But if winning a sweepstakes prize seems too good to be true. Take a moment to think rationally, and never let your emotions rule your head.
  • Money Upfront. As we already covered above, when it comes to financial exchanges, the ONLY person receiving money should be you – the winner! So, if you are asked to conduct some ‘pre-payout tasks’ dealing with cheques and payments, do not fall for it.
  • Pressure Tactics. If you receive notifications/correspondence that is pressurizing you to do something, such as to pay upfront fees or submit confidential data, alarm bells should be ringing. PCH and their affiliates would not do this.
  • Protect Private Info. Be aware that PCH don’t require PII (personally identifiable information), such as your address and financial details, when you enter. If a form is asking for this, you’re probably visiting a scam website.
  • Facebook Phoneys. As we already went over in more detail above, scammers are plenty capable of creating fake PCH pages. So, if you’re looking to follow PCH, remember that the company’s official Facebook page is the only one that features a blue badge. Meaning it’s been verified by FB administrators.
  • Silence Requested. This kind of goes without saying, but if, after receiving notification of a ‘big prize win’, you’re told to keep the news to yourself, then…well, what could be more suspicious than that?
  • Investigate/Verify the Prize. If you have doubts about whether you’ve won a legitimate prize or not, there’s nothing stopping you from heading over to the OFFICIAL Publishers Clearing House website to ask them to verify your ‘win’. If it’s genuine, you’ll have total peace of mind to proceed.