BBB warns of widespread sweepstakes scam

The Better Business Bureau is warning of a widespread scam using official-looking letters, supposedly from Publishers Clearing House, that claim recipients have won a prize drawing of $1 million.

“Perhaps, not surprisingly, the increased prevalence of this scam comes on the heels of the actual Publishers Clearing House awarding a New Jersey woman $5,000 a week for the rest of her life,” Kelvin Collins, president and CEO of the Central Georgia Better Business Bureau, said in a news release. “Scammers often steal their hooks from the headlines and operate in the wake of newsworthy events ... because they know it’ll be on top of people’s minds.”

The scam, according to Collins, works like this:

Victims receive the letter, accompanied by a check for as much as $5,900, with instructions to call the Publishers Clearing House representative listed in the letter. Over the phone, victims are told they must cash the check and wire approximately $4,000 to Publishers Clearing House, and then the rest of the winnings will be sent to them. The check, however, is fraudulent, and any money wired to the scammers cannot be recovered.

For more information, contact the Better Business Bureau at (800) 763-4222 or