Persistent scammers dial up Kamloops

They say they're from Publishers Clearing House, ask for money

April 4, 2012

By Michele Young
Daily News Staff Reporter

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A Kamloops woman as well as a couple are alerting everyone they can about a Publishers Clearing House scam that seems to be ringing phones in town.

Even more disturbing is the scammers seem to be privy to private information, such as parts of people’s social insurance numbers and driver’s licences.

Both attempts to get money from Kamloops residents failed. The woman targeted — who didn’t want to give her name — said the perpetrators were persistent.

It started with a call a few days ago from someone who said he was from Publishers Clearing House. She was told she had won $2.6 million from the Washington-based sweepstakes. The IRS was taking $850,000, and the chief executive officer was coming to Kamloops to deliver the rest to her in person.

All she had to do was send them $10,500 for security reasons.

The first man called her six or seven times in one day. The second claimed to be Publishers Clearing House CEO Andy Goldberg. A third man who said he worked with a lottery department in Victoria also tried to coerce her to ante up her security deposit.

What she found particularly disturbing was one of the callers had the last three digits of her social insurance number and the last four figures from her driver’s licence.

“He said he got it from the Canadian government,” she said Wednesday.

The suspicious woman called Publishers Clearing House, the RCMP fraud line and even B.C. Lotteries. Publishers Clearing House never asks winners to pay a fee to enter, win or claim a prize.

She had call display, and one caller was from area code 510, which is Oakland, Calif. The man said he was calling from his home there.

When she confronted the last caller about the entire thing being a sham, he got abusive.

In the other case, Peter and Carolyn Mattson were called more than a week ago. Peter took a call in the morning from a man with a foreign accent who said he’d won $2.5 million in the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes.

“He said the RCMP would be showing up at the house with someone with the cheque and a red 2012 BMW,” he said.

The catch was he had to pay a $480 fee.

“I didn’t give them a chance. I said they should be ashamed of themselves, you scammers. I just hung up,” she said.

Although the Mattsons aren’t in the phone book, the callers knew their address and postal code, and even what their apartment building looked like.

They called the police and Publishers Clearing House.

Staff Sgt. Grant Learned said they all did the right thing.

No government would ever give out any personal information numbers. Nor does Publishers Clearing House — or any legitimate lottery or sweepstakes — require a winner to hand over any kind of money.

“That stuff would not be disclosable. That would be your first flag. The second flag would be a request to send anyone money to collect for a prize you have won. That is an immediate indicator it’s a scam,” he said.

However, Learned said, identity theft is becoming increasingly common.

“One of the ways people are gaining access to this information is through theft of mail. It may go unreported, because you can’t report what you don’t get,” he said.

Thieves can steal a renewal notice for a driver’s licence or vehicle registration and use information gleaned from that to dupe the mail recipient, he said.

Even when they’re confronted about being scammers, the fraudsters sometimes persist.

Learned said the best thing to do is to be clear to the caller you’re onto them, then hang up.

Another frequent phone fraud is callers who claim they can fix a virus in the victim’s computer. They get their access information and convince them to pay $500 a year for “protection.” Sometimes they also get personal information or bank details off the computer.

“We’ve put that alert out a few times,” he said.

His advice?

“Take your computer to a reputable shop. Or call a reputable local company. Make sure you have ID from the person who comes in.”

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