CONTACT:  Julie Willmot
(609) 278-7137

TRENTON, N.J.—A savvy Hopewell Valley senior citizen did not take the bait when she received a phone call recently claiming she had won a substantial amount of money from Publishers Clearing House, and instead alerted the authorities, reports Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes.

“Our Mercer County Office of Consumer Affairs has seen an increase in scams such as the Publishers Clearing House case, in which victims receive phone calls claiming they’ve won a jackpot, and all they must do to collect their winnings is pay a processing fee,” said Hughes.

Mercer’s Consumer Affairs experts confirm that Publisher’s Clearing House does not call winners of its lottery and never requires a fee to claim a prize. Mercer County Office of Consumer Affairs is investigating the case. Along with that, no one should ever give out their banking information over the telephone.

The telephone scam reported by the quick-thinking Hopewell Valley resident is just one example of a “sweepstakes scam,” where consumers are led to believe they are the “lucky winners” of a prize, but are required to pay money or purchase something in order to collect their winnings or improve their chances of winning. Under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, the winner of a legitimate sweepstakes should not have to do anything in order to receive a prize.

Many consumers’ names, addresses and phone numbers are received through mailing lists obtained by the con artist, who then intimates the would-be victim is a winner of a contest he or she recently entered when in fact, the victim may not have entered any contest.

“In these difficult economic times, consumers are often willing to gamble with the possibility of receiving thousands of dollars in exchange for seemingly small amounts,” Hughes said. “The elderly, especially those who are isolated, are often targets. I urge any citizen who believes he or she may have been victimized or is questioning the legitimacy of a sweepstakes or contest, to call our Mercer County Office of Consumer Affairs at (609) 989 6671.”