Don’t Get Tricked, Bro: How to Recognize a Publisher’s Clearing House Scam


Yesterday, I told you all about cults. Today, I’m going to tell you about something no less insidious. It doesn’t have the same tendency to spread itself, so the harm is more localized, but it preferentially targets our cherished elder relatives.

If the idea of somebody taking advantage of your grandma, grandpa, aunt or uncle who maybe isn’t so tech savvy and is a little too trusting makes your blood boil, rest assured that you’re in the right place.

The Publisher’s Clearing House scam is just another variation on the advance fee scam, like the 419 emails I talked about in another post. You’ll receive a phone call, email, Facebook message, or literal paper mail claiming you’ve won a huge cash prize, but must pay a fee to claim it.

Often the target will be asked to transfer the money via greendot moneypak, through an app or some similar method. Or they’ll simply ask for your banking details in full. But the actual Publisher’s Clearing House never contacts anybody by phone or social media, and they have never required any advance fee to claim a prize. They’ve also never collected banking info like your pin number, routing number and so on.

Any time, during any sort of interaction with another person, money flows out of your bank account and into theirs…you should stop and scrutinize the circumstances surrounding it for any red flags that they may be taking advantage of you. In the case of 419 scams, pyramid schemes and PCH scams, that advance fee is all they’re looking to get from you.

They make a show of being invested in you, and will say whatever they need to in order to inspire trust, so it comes as a surprise when they vanish with your money. They do this to thousands of people a year, assembly line style. They don’t need very many to fall for it in order to make a living this way.

They go after the elderly under the assumption that they have a lot of money socked away for retirement, and will be especially trusting, as well as not versed in the variety of scams out there. Often they are right, and it hits elders the hardest because that’s all the money they have to live on. It’s what they worked their whole lives to save up so they could live out their final years in comfort and dignity.

On a few occasions, elders who were made destitute this way were rescued by wealthy philanthropists who saw them on the news and restored their savings, out of pocket. I’m sure we’d all love to be in a position to do that for someone, but an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

The only real remedy here is to be more involved in the lives of your elder relatives. Make sure they know about the scams out there! If you like, use my articles to explain how to recognize the underlying formula of a given scam, regardless of how the superficial details used to conceal it may change over time.

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