BY KEN LITTLE
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Another victim of a phone scam perpetrated by a caller claiming to represent Publishers Clearing House (PCH) reported losing $300 on Monday, Greeneville police Officer Louis Calobrisi said in a report.
The man is the second Greeneville resident in the past week to report being victimized by the scam.
March 3 through 9 is National Consumer Protection Week.
Police advise hanging up on suspicious callers who claim to represent organizations that are awarding cash and prizes, but want money from the person contacted before the supposed winner can claim his/her prize.
The victim of the scam that occurred Monday told police he had entered a Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes online three or four months ago.
He received a call at his Juniper Street home from a man who told him "he was a Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes winner," the report said.
CALL FROM JAMAICA
The victim was told to contact an "Agent Malone" at an 876 area code number. The 876 area code is for the island nation of Jamaica.
"The victim did as instructed and was informed by 'Agent Malone' that he needed to purchase a Walmart 'MoneyPak' in the amount of $750 to cover the taxes on his winnings" -- $1 million in cash and a new Mercedes Benz car, the report said.
The victim told the caller that he could only raise $300, "and the agent instructed him to do so and read the MoneyPak scratch-off code to him over the phone."
After authorizing the money transfer, the victim contacted Walmart and found out the MoneyPak for $300 had been cashed.
"He also contacted Publishers Clearing House and reported the scam," the report said.
"Needless to say, the victim has not heard any further from either of the males he had spoken to on the phone and has not received $1 million or a new Mercedes Benz automobile."
FIRST REPORTED VICTIM
Another Greeneville man fell victim to the same scam late last week.
The victim, who lives on Maple Avenue, told police that a man identifying himself as "John Cartwright" called, saying he had won a prize from Publishers Clearing House.
"Cartwright" told the victim that taxes would have to be paid on the supposed prize before it could be delivered.
He instructed the victim to stay on the phone while purchasing a pre-paid credit card for $950.22 and to provide the card account and pin numbers.
Access to a card's account number and pin code grant the ability to use funds linked to the card.
The victim told police he purchased the card as instructed. He said he was informed that the prize would be delivered in approximately one hour. But the delivery truck never arrived.
After the victim contacted the Greeneville Police Department, Officer David Shell attempted to contact the man identified as Cartwright by calling two phone numbers.
Cartwright answered one of the numbers and refused to tell the officer the name of the company he was purporting to represent, the report said.
THEY COME TO YOUR HOME
"Publishers Clearing House will come to your house. They will not call," Greeneville police Sgt. Shane Matthews said in an interview.
According to the Publishers Clearing House website, http://www.pch.com, "at PCH the winning is always free and you never have to pay to claim a prize award. Recognizing the difference between legitimate sweepstakes and other types of offers that may not be legitimate will help you protect yourself and your family."
"If someone contacts you claiming to be from PCH, and tells you that you've won a prize award -- then asks you to send a payment or money card in order to claim the prize -- stop! You have not heard from the real PCH," the website said.
Publishers Clearing House does not make or authorize outgoing calls to consumers to sell merchandise or magazines, or to solicit contest entries.
FRAUD NUMBER LISTED
Anyone who believes he or she is the victim of a scam using the Publishers Clearing House name or logo can contact PCH by calling a toll-free number at 1-800-645-9242.
Consumers are also advised to contact their local consumer protection officials or the National Fraud Center at http://www.fraud.org.
Greeneville police Sgt. Matthews summed up what to do. "The best advice," he said, "is to hang up on them."