Scams Targeting the Elderly – What to Look for


In the last month, two clients have received letters regarding sweepstake winnings – and each showed signs of a well-conceived scam. One for $850,000 and the other for $600,000. Both clients are in their mid 80’s; both deny being elderly.

Supermarket Customer Sweepstakes Raffle Draw

The first one was supposedly a drawing of all customers in the USA, Canada and Europe of Safeway, Wal-Mart, Super Value, Costco, Kroger, Delhaize, Target, CVS Pharmacy, Sears, etc. that used Visa, Master Card, American Express, Discover or personal check. A really large group! What would be the odds of being selected from that group?

Publishers Clearing House

The second one was a letter from Deborah Holland, Executive Vice President, of Publishers Clearing House, a position she has held for more than 30 years.

Processing fees

Both winnings required payment of processing fees before receiving the prize. In both cases, checks were enclosed to help fund the processing fee. For example, to receive the $850,000 prize, the processing fee was $3,680. A check for $3,882 was enclosed to help fund the processing fee. Supposedly, an advance on the $850,000 in winnings.

How it works

You write a check for the processing fee and mail it in. At the same time, you deposit the check they sent you. Your check to them clears right away. Two or three weeks later you receive notice from your bank that their check was returned for insufficient funds or a closed account.

How do you know it isn’t real

You know it isn’t real and likely a scam if you are asked to send a “processing fee.”

In the case of Publishers Clearing House, you know it isn’t real because Publishers Clearing House does not telephone, email or send letters to winners. Just like you see on TV, Publishers Clearing House shows up at your home with a van full of balloons!

Internet search

We had a lot of fun reading both letters and searching the internet. That’s how I know that Deborah Holland is actually the Executive Vice President of Publishers Clearing House.

That first letter was from a company located in “Durbank,” California. We thought it should have been Burbank, but checked to see if there is a city in California named “Durbank.” There is not. Then we called the phone number listed in the letter. The person who answered wanted to know why we were calling. As soon as he found out, he hung up.

We used Google to search the phone number listed in the Publishers Clearing House letter. What came up was FRAUD.

It can happen to anyone

Recently I received a call asking for a donation to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The caller told me there was an anonymous donor that would match my donation, but only if I donated within the next 24 hours. That appealed to me! I went to get my credit card and, on the way back to the phone, realized how easy it was for some unknown person to run a scam like this to get my credit card number.

As the sergeant told his men on Hill Street Blues, “Be careful out there.”

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