A town of Janesville resident was nearly conned out of $100 on Friday, but the scam was nipped in the bud in part because of a new effort by Rock County sheriff’s deputies.
The man received a call from someone claiming to be from Publishers Clearing House, who persuaded the man to send a prepaid debit card for $100 in order to get a prize, according to a Rock County Sheriff’s Office report.
The man went to a Walgreens store in Janesville to buy the card, but an alert clerk figured out it was a scam, and the resident didn’t lose the $100, according to the report.
Sheriff’s Capt. Mark Thompson said second-shift patrol deputies recently started a prevention effort, educating clerks in stores where gift cards are sold about these scams, which often target the elderly.
This was the first instance Thompson has heard of in which one of those clerks spotted the scam and dissuaded someone from sending a card.
Sheriff’s Sgt. Andrew Reed spearheaded the effort, Thompson said.
Deputies give clerks informational cards to hand out to customers who try to buy cards with large amounts of money. The cards state: “If you are buying gift cards for someone over the phone, you are likely being scammed.”
Reed asked Janesville and Beloit police for permission to put their logos on the cards, as well, hoping that would lend them legitimacy.
Such scams are particularly frustrating for law enforcement, who receive numerous complaints but can do little about them.
“The worst is telling the victims that the likelihood of getting their money back is pretty much at zero. It’s gone,” Reed said. “Our ability to track down the perpetrators is extremely limited. The (phone) numbers they use are untraceable.”
Reed said the average amount lost in such scams is probably $3,000 to $5,000.
Publishers Clearing House says on its Facebook page that it “will never ask you to pay to play or collect a prize! If you get a message like that, it’s a scam!”
Warnings about this scam from consumer advocates and law enforcement are plentiful, but the lure of instant riches can be hard to resist.
Even the odds in the legal Publishers Clearing House promotions might make one wonder if they’re worth the effort.
AARP warns that the odds of winning the Publishers Clearing House top prize are 1 in 1.2 billion, and even the odds of winning PCH’s $2,500 prize are 1 in 130 million.
“But the odds of getting scammed are 100 percent if you believe those phony congratulation letters, phone calls and emails that claim you need to pay money in order to get your winnings,” an AARP article states.