MADISON (WKOW) -- From the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection:
Some Wisconsin residents are receiving what looks like a prize certificate from Publishers Clearing House. The certificate tells recipients they are the "third place winner" which is worth $1 million. The certificate also tells recipients they must contact a representative whose name and phone number are given, along with a "security code." The recipient is also told that the Internal Revenue agent handling the file is "Mr. Harvey" and given a telephone number to contact Mr. Harvey.
Along with the certificate comes a check, often for several thousands of dollars, to cover outstanding fees not paid by Publishers Clearing House. The recipient is to deposit the check and wire part of the check's proceeds to a person, often someone in Canada.
At least one Wisconsin resident in Reedsburg followed the instructions and was out $2,400 when the check, a fake, bounced. The real Publishers Clearinghouse said it was not involved.
"Con artists like to prey on vulnerable consumers," says Janet Jenkins, Administrator of the Division of Trade and Consumer Protection, WI Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.
"Given the current economic situation, there are many vulnerable consumers who can be victimized by those promising money prizes, particularly when it appears that the prize is from a real business."
"To make matters even worse, these consumers not only don't get any money, they actually have to pay money."
Jenkins offers the following tips to avoid becoming a victim. "First, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is, so check it out very carefully. Second, don't ever accept a check from someone who asks you to send part of it back. That's almost always a sure sign it's a scam."
For more information, contact Consumer Protection by email at email@example.com
or by phone at 1-800-422-7128.