(NEW YORK) — Publisher’s Clearing House commercials that show average citizens winning giant checks can be seen on almost any channel, any time of day.
But now Jamaican scammers are using the good name of Publisher’s Clearing House and other major prize companies to dupe thousands of senior citizens out of their life savings.
Kim Nichols said her 77-year-old father was ripped off.
“He received a phone call from someone saying they were from Publisher’s Clearing House,” she said. “They said he won a Mercedes, and nice car, over a million dollars.”
But Publisher’s Clearing House had nothing to do with any of this and it doesn’t notify winners on the phone.
Nichols’ father started getting a flood of phone calls from Jamaica’s 876 area code with crooks impersonating sweepstakes and government officials demanding tax money before he could get the prize.
He ended up losing a devastating $85,000.
In recent years, elderly Americans have been bilked out of an estimated $1 billion in Jamaican lottery scams.
If the victims don’t pay, the scammers are not above threats, sometimes using Google maps to pretend they’re watching the victims.
Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Ben Nelson of Florida say the scams are epidemic.
“There’s nothing these scammers won’t do,” Collins said. “They’re absolutely despicable.”
“We want to put out the red flags of warning, ‘You are valuable,’” Nelson said.
Prize officials should never ask you to pay taxes before giving you the money. If they do, it’s a scam.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Julia Horowitz, CNN
Ivaylo Vezenkov and Lauren del Valle, CNN
Matt McFarland, CNN