AARP Fraud Watch Network: You’re an instant winner!

You're an instant winner! Or is it a scam? Stock photo
You’re an instant winner! Or is it a scam? Stock photo

REGION – You can be an instant millionaire! Publisher’s Clearing House is promising someone, maybe you, $5,000 per week for life. This is not a scam, but the following is a scam.

If you receive either a phone call, text message, or email congratulating you on your good luck and the win, it’s a scam. Quite likely you will be asked for either a payment of “taxes” or processing fees using a debit card or gift cards. You can call PCH, 800-459-4724, for verification but here is the reality.

PCH will only award major prizes in person. They will not email, text, or call you with conditions for the award requiring personal information such as account numbers, Social Security numbers, or passwords. In addition, if you are a winner, you will not be asked to pay fees or taxes immediately.

The charging of fees on a prize is illegal. Taxes are paid to the U.S. Treasury and state tax agencies directly. Publisher’s Clearing House is well aware of these scams and if you want further details, go to

Other popular scams continuing to trap victims are phishing scams. Typically, these appear as text messages, emails, and phone calls claiming either problems or, in the case of internet providers, malware infecting your account. We’ve also noted numerous cases where the scam appears to be an alert from Amazon about an account or merchandise purchase.

Before clicking the email link, check the sender’s address. A giveaway to the scam is an address that includes Gmail, Hotmail, or Ymail. The address of any legitimate company will appear as that company name followed by “.com.”

If you accidentally open the link, examine the address appearing at the top of your browser in the URL line. That address should not include the name of web services such as Weebly, Google, GoDaddy. Often these criminals will attempt to pass off scam websites by making them appear legitimate, but as with the email address, the URL address should clearly provide the name of the company, which is usually followed by “.com” or “.net.”

Other clear indications of a scam include misspellings and unusual grammar. Often the sender is not a native speaker of American English so look for alternate spellings or strange word order.

It is critical to report scams. The process is easy but requires a little work on your part. Copy down any information including names, companies, and details. If it is a phone scam, noting the caller’s number is not necessary since the number is likely spoofed. The exception to this is if the email, web page, or phone call provides a number to call.

Report the scam. There are numerous state and federal agencies that collect reports. At the federal level, you can go to the FBI website,, or to the Federal Trade Commission,

Based on your residency, you may also want to report the crime to state government: New Hampshire Attorney General or Vermont Attorney General’s Office. Unsure of where to go? Have questions and need assistance? Contact the AARP National Fraud Watch Network helpline at 877-908-3360.

Special alert: A classic summer scam involves home maintenance and services including driveway repair and siding installation. Before jumping on a “great deal,” conduct some basic research, note details, and ask questions. Did you request information or was the contractor “just driving by” the neighborhood? Is there a business logo with contact information on the vehicle? Can the contractor provide contact information for local references? Is the contractor licensed to do business? The criminal will want an immediate response. Don’t take the bait.

AARP is seeking Fraud Fighters of all ages. Contact the AARP Massachusetts Office at 866-448-3621, AARP New Hampshire Office at 866-542-8168, AARP New York Office at 866-227-7442, or AARP Vermont Office at 866-227-7451.

Want a free list of fraud-fighting resources? Have questions or comments? Contact me at

  Elliott Greenblott is a retired educator and coordinator of the AARP Vermont Fraud Watch Network. He hosts a CATV program, Mr. Scammer, distributed by GNAT-TV in Sunderland, Vt.

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