Scammer uses PCH contest to bilk local resident


FORT MADISON – The Fort Madison Police Department is investigating a verified case of telephone fraud in which a 70-year-old resident was bilked out of $40,000 of inheritance money. The complaint was registered 4/15/2020, but had occurred days earlier.

According to Fort Madison Police Chief, Mark Rohloff, reportedly a male resident stated he was calling from Publisher’s Clearinghouse to inform the victim that he had won a prize. To collect his winnings, he would have to mail $10,000 in cash to an address in Florida. The victim told officers that he withdrew the cash from his bank and sent the money using express mail as requested. He also responded in like manner to a second call requesting another $30,000 be sent to the same address.

Officers contacted postal authorities and found that the packages had been mailed from two different post offices to the same location in Green Acres, Florida. Unfortunately, they had already been delivered and that the victim had waived the signature requirement to claim them. The department is investigating, and is in communication with the victim’s bank, postal officials, and other law enforcement. No arrests have been made.

Information from the Publisher’s Clearinghouse website provided information on such scams, noting that long recognized reputable businesses often have their company’s names used to lend an air of authenticity to the scammer’s claims.

Such scams have become so commonplace that most persons now regard them as a nuisance. However, elderly persons who are often easily convinced of the caller’s sincerity, or confused by the circumstances, are usually the successful targets of such crimes. The Fort Madison Police Department urges the public to use other means to verify any solicitation before jeopardizing one’s personal information or finances.

PCH officials said they never call winners before delivering the good news.

“We need to be vigilant when vulnerable persons disclose details on such schemes, and that law enforcement and financial institutions can be helpful resources to vet out suspected fraud attempts.” Rohloff said.

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