False claims of 'Publisher's Clearing House, '
PRINEVILLE, Ore. (KTVZ) – Prineville police are warning the public to beware and to help protect seniors from an elaborate scam involving a supposed big jackpot and “an FBI agent” who defrauded a resident out of more than $107,000. Now, the real FBI is involved in trying to track down the scammers.
Police said the scam usually begins with someone claiming to be from “Publisher’s Clearing House” calling the resident to say they won a big prize – the amounts vary, but usually over $1 million – and that they need to send a cashier’s check to cover the fees, in this case $24,000 though it could be as little as $100.
About a week later, there’s another call – this time from “the FBI,” claiming the check that was sent was fraudulent and the victim is now under investigation – but can take care of it by sending more money. “They use scare tactics and threaten arrest,” police warned in a Facebook post on Friday.
The victim in this case received a form, supposedly from the “Federal Reserve Bank,” outlining the fees connected to the “fraudulent check.” The “FBI agent” becomes friendly, says he’s only “doing his job,” and tries to form a relationship with the victim. But he requests more money while promising the matter will be taken care of.
“Once the relationship is established, the ‘FBI agent’ will prey on the vulnerable victim, telling them everything they want to hear,” the police warning said. “They do this by getting the victim to tell them (usually over text messages) about their life, hopes and dreams.”
Police said the scams often involve seniors, especially those widowed or living alone.
Officers reminded that no legitimate law enforcement agency will ever call to ask for money or gift cards to take care of an investigation or arrest warrant. And they surely won’t “put pressure on you to act fast by giving your personal information or again, require payment. Also, Publisher’s Clearing House will never call, asking to send them money for a prize.
The scammers can spoof phone numbers to match ones used by legitimate agencies. They can easily find out the names of local law enforcement to trick the call recipient – so don’t rely on your caller ID.
“These scams are multi-faceted and very difficult to investigate, as many times the scammers are located in another country,” the police warning said.
Prineville police are working with the FBI – the real one – and other law enforcement agencies in an attempt to follow leads in this scam.
“PLEASE reach out to grandparents/parents that may not be on social media,” the warning said. “It’s very sad to see our elderly population have their life-long savings wiped out.”
Another tip they offered: If not sure something is a scam, “stop talking and ask for their phone number. Tell them you will call them back after you speak with police or your attorney. If after that they threaten you or give you an ultimatum, they are a SCAM. DON’T BE PRESSURED. Remember the old saying, ‘If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.’”