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Who wouldn’t love to be that winner you see on TV holding a great big sweepstakes check? That’s what con artists are counting on when they claim to be Publishers Clearing House. This trick is an oldie but goodie for scammers.

The scam starts with a call or letter saying you’ve won the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes. But to collect your prize, they say, you need to send money to pay for fees and taxes. Typically you’ll be asked to send money by Western Union or MoneyGram, or by getting a reloadable card or gift card. Scammers ask you to pay these ways because it’s nearly impossible to trace the money — and you’ll almost never get it back.

But that’s not the only way scammers get your money with this scam. Some will send you a realistic-looking fake check in the mail. You’re told that, to claim your prize, you need to deposit the check and send some of the money back for made-up expenses. But when the check you deposit bounces — even after it seemed to clear — you may be on the hook for the money you sent.

If you think you’ve won a prize, here are a few things to know:

  • Never send money to collect a prize, sweepstakes check, or lottery winnings. If you have to pay, it’s a scam.
  • Never deposit a check and send back money, even if the funds appear in your account. That’s a sure sign of a scam.
  • If anyone calls asking you to pay for a prize, hang up and report it to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

Want to know more? Read our article on Prize Scams. And, if you wired money to a prize scammer via Western Union between January 1, 2004 and January 19, 2017, you might be eligible for a refund.

Still think it’s real? The real Publishers Clearing House says it will never ask you to pay a fee to collect a prize. Check out Publishers Clearing House’s fraud protection page.

Note: The title was updated on April 25, 2018 to make clear that this blog post addresses scammers impersonating Publishers Clearing House.

390 Comments


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The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

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  • We won’t post threats, defamatory statements, or suggestions or encouragement of illegal activity.
  • We won’t post comments that include personal information, like Social Security numbers, account numbers, home addresses, and email addresses. To file a detailed report about a scam, go to ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

We don't edit comments to remove objectionable content, so please ensure that your comment contains none of the above. The comments posted on this blog become part of the public domain. To protect your privacy and the privacy of other people, please do not include personal information. Opinions in comments that appear in this blog belong to the individuals who expressed them. They do not belong to or represent views of the Federal Trade Commission.

aktres
April 24, 2018
Pulisher's Clearing House a scam? They had me in their clutches for almost 2 years. Never heard of a prize being given and the prize date kept being pushed up.
ameind
April 24, 2018

In reply to by aktres

No Publisher isn't, they are saying that some people are posing as them in a scam.
georgie
May 31, 2018

In reply to by ameind

Publishers clearing house sends prize info thenbwants you to recertify, and recertify, and recertify......an endless loop. I have yet to hear of one person who won anything from them. Wake Up People, they are a scam unto themselves and don’t need the clingons that try to spoof their spoof. They should be shut down.
not applicable
April 24, 2018

In reply to by aktres

I agree with aktres- I got continuing mailings saying you need to certify your enrty, then next one is to re-certify, then anolther one to verify your re-certification, or something similar to this and so on. All mailing are marketing some sort of merchandise and ask why you have not "tried" some yet. They do say you don't have to buy this stuff to be eligible for cash prizes.I dropped out after the 3 rd mailing. Then I got another mailing reminding me that I had not re-re-re-entered to which I never replied !
Shorty
May 12, 2018

In reply to by not applicable

I completely agree with you! You NEVER see or hear anything on the news/t.v that indicates that so & so won! I have not believed in years that this “company” is legit..in fact, they make me sick that they have gotten away with for (that I’m aware of) over 40+ years...smh
sea2cat
April 25, 2018

In reply to by aktres

I agree 100% with your comment. Same happened to me and the scam envelope keeps coming. I just throw them away.
Kitty
April 26, 2018

In reply to by aktres

The real publishers is not a scam. Its the callers and emails that claim to be them that are. They are getting even more bold by claiming to be from your bank. They hack phone numbers and try to lure you in. I got several and I say I live in a different state and they try to pull the "we have a package for you at (the quickest big city they can think of), I keep changing the state. When I ask what the address is on the package they will hang up. The newest version of this is now they are claiming to be calling from your bank. Be wary. I called my bank and made sure I was being protected from this.
Abby
July 19, 2018

In reply to by Kitty

Seriously!!! Again, have you EVER in the past years heard of a winner on National News where a person won $1,000 a day? No and will never here a winner. They're scammers as in Publishing Clearing House scammers.
Tsmith
October 09, 2018

In reply to by Abby

Actually yes. A gal in a nearby town won and was on our local news just awhile back.
Teresa
April 30, 2018

In reply to by aktres

I received a text from a man named Scott West saying he was an agent with Publishers Clearing House and that I had been selected and won the Mega bonus for Publishers Clearing House ask for information once I gave it he sent me a picture of my reference numbers and my claim numbers I said I thought it was a scam he then sent me a photo of his supposedly government agent card which if you look closely at it it says the city he lives in his Texas the date his card was issued was the month of 13 in 2018 so just be aware I'm going to try to post this picture so everybody can see this particular card in case he's trying to scam anybody else he'd said I needed to send a fee of $150 to cover the UPS delivery charge when I said I didn't have it he said oh okay well what do you have then he said you could send $100 and just proceeded to continue to try try to con me I have his picture I have his so-called claim numbers and everybody be aware
Dan
May 01, 2018

In reply to by aktres

I received a call from a guy that barley spoke English and ended up that they wanted me to go to Walmart to transfer $375 in order to collect 2.5 million cash and a new S Class Mercedes-Benz. I t got to the point where he was almost arguing with me and wouldn't verify basic information that Publishers Clearing has for me. It states straight out that in the rules that no funds are collected to receive any prizes. Do not get conned out of any money by falling for these scams.
LaurieTee
January 11, 2019

In reply to by Dan

I also received a surprise call from a Restricted number, and he also couldn't speak very clearly but he told me he was Michael Manley and he claimed that my phone number was selected as the #1 Winner. He wanted me to note my prize confirmation number, and said I could expect the Prize Team to deliver my check for 3.5 million dollars plus the keys to my new S Class Mercedes Benz, and their attorney would accompany me to the bank to deposit the funds for immediate use. He swore on his children's lives that this was legitimate. The check would be from Bank of America. And he was going to be my Prize Director and I needed to stay on the line. I expressed skepticism and I didn't understand his explanation about how there would be a 1% refundable fee. He put his General Manager on the phone, who also spoke poor English and they kept asking how close was I to a Walmart. That's when I decided to hang up. Creepy!
Mo
June 04, 2019

In reply to by LaurieTee

This just happened to me today. He said his name was John Myer and I have to send 1% which was $899 and my money and Mercedes would be delivered at 3:30
Bird99
February 06, 2020

In reply to by Mo

This John Myers just called my cell phone today (02/06/2020). I didn't bother to pick up. I googled the number and PCH website. Its a scam.
Elsie
January 22, 2019

In reply to by Dan

I got a call from Jamaica saying I had won the exact same prizes you name & wanted me to go to WalMart to pay the 1% taxes they couldn't pay for me ($845.44). Said they were 25 minutes away from me, and when I asked if he knew where I was, he squiggled away into telling me how legit he was and the call was being monitored by FBI and Homeland Security. I told him I don't pay taxes at WalMart, I would not give money before I got the prize and if he was legit he would give me the money and paying taxes would be left up to me. He argued as well, and I finally just hung up. Don't even spend that much time listening to this drivel. PCH doesn't call you before delivering a prize!!
AJ
April 04, 2019

In reply to by Dan

this happened to me today what do I do next I hung up but mr. john green keeps calling
BA
July 29, 2019

In reply to by AJ

7/29/2019 John Green called me today. Wanted $1000.00 today so that he could have the Prize Patrol deliver to my house tomorrow, One and One Half Million ($1,500,000.00) ..............what a joke!!!!!. I suppose that there is an idiot born every day.
rapc0m
June 12, 2018

In reply to by aktres

I received this email and I know PCH don't use yahoo email. Plus I don't participate with their games. Winning Prize ID: A198292 Claim. Yahoo / Inbox EDGAR VILCA FIGUEREDO Jun 10 at 9:10 PM You have won the publishers clearing house promotion prize, released for the Month of June. To process your claims, make sure to send/forward your winning prize Identification number[A198292] to our fiduciary claim agent through this email via { pch.prize @yahoo. com }.

Jojochristian
December 21, 2018

In reply to by rapc0m

I too got this same call today, and it was from a guy that barley spoke English. He said, congratulations you’ve won 2.5 million dollars and a Mercedes, he said in order to collect it, he would need $900. Big red flag right there, so I called Publishers clearing house & they said they don’t contact their winners via phone.
Anonymous
August 23, 2018

In reply to by aktres

I just received one of those emails, I think. Could you tell me if this reply address is from Publishers Clearing House? I have the email and I will save it for you! They sent an email from publishersdept2018 @foxmail. com. Is this correct? Thanks, Anonymous
FTC Staff
August 23, 2018

In reply to by Anonymous

You can usually find contact information for a business on its website. Look up the website that you know is the official website, and then look for a button or link on the website that says "Contact Us" or something similar.

MissTaken4 sure
June 12, 2019

In reply to by FTC Staff

I got a message from a friend that said she got a grant from PCH. And she gave me a phone number for me to apply. Stupidly I sent them all my info. My address, my phone number, my email address my place of employment and now I'm worried to death that I made a big mistake
niasape
July 05, 2019

In reply to by MissTaken4 sure

Same here, a friend text me on Facebook, saying that I was on the list of the winners and he gave me a number in Philadelphia (US) to call. But I live un London (UK) and never been in US, I don't think my name could be on that list.
Paula
July 28, 2019

In reply to by niasape

Strange I had the same thing from a guy I don't know on FB messaged me said he won & received a cheque for £1000.00 & said I was on the list of winners & I must not see the letter from them & to contact a lady in the US to claim my prize. I don't gabble but he said he was handed a cheque & lives in the UK very strange indeed. This lady claims she works from the desk of PCH Publishers Clearing House prize patrol. He claims she is in the UK travelling around handing out cheques.
Friend...
May 05, 2020

In reply to by niasape

I got a message from a friend on Facebook said she just won $500,000 grant .... she said my name was on a list of winners and gave me a number of the agent "Dave Sayer" I was wondering if it was a scam ??? I asked my friend on FB how we knew each other and she wouldn't answer me ...... kept are you serious ?? Kept giving me the agent name and saying just never mind if I don't want the money , but saying I'd thank her later if i just try it ...... so glad I saw these comments I think my friends account was hacked and the whole thing is a big scam!! Thank you
Ab2011
July 07, 2020

In reply to by niasape

I'm also going through this right now from a person who messaged me on FB who said she saw my name on the list and have gotten messages from Michael Smith as well looked it up on FB and of course said personal blog....what a way to get a persons hopes up especially right now so ridiculous I've already fallen for their scams and sent money I can never get back such a stupid mistake and even threatening me with jail and also a CEO FBI Agent that works with supposedly time to block them now. Learned my lesson
Annoyed by this
September 03, 2019

In reply to by MissTaken4 sure

Something happened to me today and I was stupid enough to send them gift cards worth $100 each and I sent 3 of them. His name was William Smith on Facebook. So be careful.they say that you qualify for a federal government program and it's a scam also they say they Fed ex you cash and not a check
Cecil Sargent
July 28, 2019

In reply to by FTC Staff

Mr Cecil Sargent I got a text on my phone that i was a winner of 1million a year ask $10.000 per week. Now they are asking for a taxes clearance for a $650 to get it Now is it real or fack?
FTC Staff
September 06, 2019

In reply to by Cecil Sargent

If you have to pay to get your prize, it’s a scam. Never send money to collect a prize, sweepstakes check, or lottery winnings.

gdmoma2001
April 02, 2019

In reply to by aktres

My name Dorthy I been with clearing publishers for 26years they promised me a loyalty check for the years never received it they stopped sending mail everything what can I do about it they even told me the attorney general in Washington DC stop the packages from coming
I won It?'
April 24, 2018
Watch out for PUBLISHERS CLEARING HOUSE UK Lotto todd sloone. he wants you to pay for shipping!
March 1, 2019 Beth J
March 01, 2019

In reply to by I won It?'

I just got a cal from Todd Solon who told me I won 250,000.00 in the PCH Clearinghouse Sweepstakes. Praise claim # 5058500127 with Pkg code # 252397 US. . They were to call me back in 5 minutes. They asked my. How Do You Feel ? I said skeptical. They did try to ca back in 5 min but I didn’t answer. This happened 3 hours ago.
Austlj2424
April 02, 2019

In reply to by March 1, 2019 Beth J

I just got a call from Richard Brown which let me spoke to his manager Michael Forshaw who told me I won 2nd place PCH sweepstakes prize of $2.5 million. The winning numbers were 509641409334457 and that I needed to purchase a $350 Amazon card from Walgreen's in exchange for the Certified Cashiers check. He also said he could have UPS meet me at home, work, or the bank to give me the prize. Scammers should be caught and put in jail for taking advantage of innocent people!
Furious daughter.
October 07, 2019

In reply to by Austlj2424

My mother is a senior citizen and very naive to the corruption of the world today. My mother lives in another state not close to me at all. Apparently someone from publishers clearing house called her and told her she won 3.5 million and a Mercedes. My mother said she was skeptical at first but that they had a pretty convincing comeback for every doubt she had. Long story short she sent them $1,300.00 because she had to pay taxes up front and that’s all she had. For the rest of the taxes the could take it off her credit cards. She gave them all her information full name, D.O.B. Social, bank info, credit card info. ( all of them) even mother’s maiden name. When I finally was informed by her of what was going on it was because she was asking me for $2000. As instructed by them to do. I asked her what she needed it for and she said I’m not suppose to tell you this because they said it’s a surprise she proceeded to tell me about the phone call and then I found out that they sent a taxi for my mother since her car wasn’t running she actually got in the cab and they took her to T mobile to buy 2 of the new IPhones which that store did not have in stock. The cab then took her to Walgreens and the man told her to use her Discover card because it had the most available credit and buy 2 $500 gift cards . At this point it was obvious they had already checked all her accounts. I instructed my mother not to speak to them the next day they kept calling she answered phone it was a different number and it was him. She told them she is sick and elderly and they have her doing to much that she decided she has lived this long without the money and doesn’t want it. They told her she deserved it and she needed to take a loan on her house. She told them she couldn’t because her daughter is part owner of house and lives in another state. They told her to get me to notorizeed consent she said ok. They next day we changed home and cell numbers, reported everything to police contacted banks,creditors called equifax, experian, even FTC. Now here’s the creepy part. They can not reach her by phone anymore. The next morning my 8 year old granddaughter was dropped off to visit my mom an there was a note on the door from the guy saying I have been trying to reach you please call me back and his phone number. She called police again they said there’s nothing the could do it’s just a note. A few days passed , door bell rings. My son inlaw gets the door and it’s a pizza delivery. After determining that none of them ordered pizza they ask the lady who ordered it and the lady handed my mom the phone. My mom said hello heard his voice and he identified himself saying he’s been trying to reach her. She immediately handed phone back to pizza lady and said I don’t want to speak to him and we don’t want the pizza. After the lady told him that she hung up and told my mother she was sorry and that he told her he was her grandson. Police were called again and basically again they can’t do anything about it. I feel like they can. They should at least look into it and see if there is any information attached to the card used for the pizza purchase. I’m very concerned for her safety now it seems they are very desperate to go to these measures. Does anyone have any suggestions for me?
FrankSnow
June 05, 2021

In reply to by Furious daughter.

I’d love to know what ever came of this. I’m currently in a similar situation with my grandmother-in-law. I hate to say that it was WAAAAAY more than $1300 in this case.
85beauty
April 24, 2018
I have ascam from a grant says federal govt will give u $5000. and pay taxes and Fed X fee to a Fed X cashier in topeks Ks, just send by western union 250 for taxes and fed x fee. told them only had !00 so they still send it and fed x wil collect the remainder. got to be a scam
5946
April 24, 2018
Just received another e-mail women in Africa is trying to help children etc. Be careful they are out there again.
Bonedog
April 24, 2018
Great info. Your site is invaluable to folks who are vulnerable.
NoItAll
April 24, 2018
1. always right click on links in an email and copy it. then Open Notepad and left click to paste it into notepad. If they are all the same, it's a scam. 2. I would cash the check, but never send any money till it has cleared for at least a week.
LadyG
October 24, 2019

In reply to by NoItAll

Comment on No 2--Do NOT cash the check...it is most likely bogus, but it will take the bank a while before it is verified as bogus, and if you sent any money at all, it will be gone, and you will also be liable for any of the "funds" from the bogus check that you might have already spent.
Rockin' Ron
April 24, 2018
You should also note, that if you send in an entry for the actual Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes....you will be endlessly bombarded with emails, insisting you don't have to make a purchase to enter, but they will hammer you with their cheap overpriced trinkets in the hope that you actually will buy something....I mean a dozen emails a day for days on end. Each one insisting there's only one more step to insure your entry gets posted. Each one begging you again and again to purchase something. Then they stick you on their endless "other contest" email list.
mzb
April 24, 2018
I keep getting Publishers Clearing House to win $5000 for life if I come to their home page before today. Enter a number for their drawing. If they draw my number they will come to my door with money ,roses, and balloons.
Florinda1970
April 24, 2018
I RECEIVED AN EMAIL SAYING I WON PCH AND THEY WANTED MY INFORMATION. I THEN CONTACTED PCH. THEY SAID IT WAS A SCAM IF YOU WON THEY WILL COME TO YOUR HOUSE. SEMT THEM THE EMAIL I RECEIVED.
TearDrop
April 24, 2018
I received a scam that said I was hired as a mystery shopper and received a money order in the amount of $998.00. I was told to cash the m.o. at my bank, keep $165 for myself and wire the balance to someone living in Saginaw, TX. The money order was definitely a fake.
gumshoe
June 13, 2018

In reply to by TearDrop

I may be wrong, but it could this be a source of money laundering? Or just some bottom feeders looking for a quick buck?
BlueStormWalker
April 24, 2018
My mother and I received some of these calls when the PCH started advertising, in our area spring/summer 2017. I contacted their fraud department twice; the first time, felt very professional. The second time, not so much? Thank You FTC never a dull moment at the FTC, FCC. Peace be with you, as May 1st rolls in. I heard the update, will change all favorites that are in PDF format (downloadable). I've been sweating through it, best I can. Downloading any documents, I starred being Lazy. I will retrieve them later, for their vital information. Being mindful of the possibility, that things will go terribly wrong? Additionally, I am under the impression our contracts with service providers are safe from the update. Personal secret, so totally disorganized over there, I tried to clean up by consolidating. I have been having difficulties at the server, renaming folders and what not? It's my little mess, that is so helpful solving problems. I enjoy using the server, it saves my little 1TG. Additionally it covers my static, doesn't it? Any thoughts?
Pat N
April 25, 2018
Keep up the great work! ! ,!
Pat O
April 24, 2018
3rd party selling is a horrible issue. I appreciate all the effort. Started reading all the fine print on all junk mail or solicitations of any membership or charities or church affiliations.