Any time our station hears about a scam in the area, we want to make viewers aware.
This time, a scammer is posing as a Publisher's Clearing House representative. The caller tells folks they've won a big prize.
It happened to Billie Thomas of Marsh Valley on Saturday.
“I just grinned,” said Thomas. “I just figured, I can't be that lucky.”
On Saturday morning, Thomas got the phone call of a lifetime. She'd won $800,000 and a Mercedes Benz convertible. The male caller told her, the winnings were on their way.
“We'll be there in an hour and a half,” Thomas recalls the man telling her.
The man told Thomas he and a police escort would be pulling into her driveway in rural Marsh Valley in no time. He said they’d be accompanied by a police escort, driving the prize convertible.
“I just felt like it was too good to be true,” she said.
Thomas had her doubts.
She thought a little team work was in order.
“I handed the phone to him,” said Thomas, motioning toward her husband, Gaylon Thomas.
Gaylon wasn’t so certain either.
“I said, ‘I just have a hard time accepting this is true,” Gaylon recalls telling the man.
But the caller reassured him, the call was legitimate. There was just one more thing.
In order to claim the winnings, Billie and Gaylon would need to purchase a MoneyPak gift card loaded with $350.
“He says, ‘Well this is to cover the taxes on the money your wife is going to get,’” Gaylon recalled the man saying.
Gaylon said the man was convincing. He promised the winnings in exchange for the card.
“So, I really got caught up into it,” said Gaylon. “I went to town, picked up the card and brought it back.”
The man soon called back, that’s when Gaylon knew things just weren't right. He asked Gaylon to read him the card number over the phone.
“I said, ‘I won't do that.’”
That seemed to be a deal breaker for the man who said he represented Publisher’s Clearing House. Gaylon realized he'd almost been taken for that $350.
But he said he remembered stories like our station’s Scam Alerts warning folks about giving information over the phone.
“I feel sorry for anyone who might not have the astute-ness to not give the number,” he said.
The fake calls are going around. Publisher's Clearing House warned about this scam on its own blog. It was a close call for the Thomas family.
“I only wish I hadn't went and had the money downloaded,” said Gaylon, referring to the card.
He'll have to wait to get his money back from MoneyPak, but he's thankful he didn't make the mistake of giving over the card number.
He wanted to remind others to never give any financial information out over the phone.