How to Recognize Publishers Clearing House Scams

Is That PCH Prize Win Legit? Here's How to Tell.

Mother and daughter winning lottery
Make Sure Your PCH Win Is Legit Before You Start to Celebrate. Chip Simons / Getty Images

Real Win or PCH Scam? How to Know the Difference!

I receive many emails from readers wanting to know if they have really won from Publishers Clearing House, after receiving phone calls, letters, or emails that look like win notifications. Some of the questions I've received include:

  • "I just received a notice in the mail supposedly from Publishers Clearing House. They are saying that I have won a sweepstakes prize. Is this real?"
  • "I received a prize notification letter along with a check from Publishers Clearing House to cover expenses. Did I really win?"
  • "Publishers Clearing House keeps calling and saying I've won $100,000,000. They say I have to pay 1% in taxes before they release the prize. What should I do?"

Did any of these readers really win a Publishers Clearing House jackpot?

How to Recognize and Avoid PCH Scams:

Sweepstakes scammers are experts at convincing you that you have won a prize and need to hand over your money to receive it. One of their most successful tactics is to disguise themselves as legitimate companies that really do offer huge prizes. Because people are familiar with the company that scammers are mimicking, they are more likely to (falsely) believe they have really won a prize.

Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes are legit, but there are many scams that use the PCH name. So how can you tell when you really win Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes and when you're being scammed?

Here are tips to help you spot PCH scams:

  1. PCH Doesn't Email or Call Its Big Winners
    If you receive an email, a telephone call, or a bulk mail letter saying that you've won a big prize from PCH, it's a scam. According to the PCH website: "All PCH prizes of $500 or greater are awarded by either certified or express letter or in person by our famous Prize Patrol at our option." So you know that if you receive a prize notification by any other method than certified mail or an in-person award, you are being scammed.
  1. You Never Have to Pay to Receive a Legitimate PCH Win
    Scammers extort money from you in exchange for a promise of a prize that never materializes. The truth is you never, ever have to pay to receive a sweepstakes prize, from Publishers Clearing House or any other company.
  2. Don't Give Out Confidential Information When You Enter.
    You don't have to give Publishers Clearing House your address, bank account number, drivers license number, or any other confidential information when you first enter. You may have to fill out an affidavit to verify eligibility if you win, but not when you first enter or when you are first notified that you are a winner.
  3. A Check Doesn't Mean You've Won
    Scammers sometimes make it appear that you're not "really" paying for your prize by handing over a check and asking you to send back some of the money. After all, they're providing the funds, right? Wrong. Those checks aren't legitimate, and you'll be left holding the bill. Read about check scams for more information.
  4. The Warning Signs of Sweepstakes Scams Apply to PCH Wins, Too
    There are some steps that you can take to easily spot sweepstakes scams, and all of those guidelines apply to Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes, as well as to sweepstakes from other companies. See the Warning Signs of Sweepstakes Scams for more information.
  1. You Can Always Verify Your Wins with Publishers Clearing House
    If you have checked the steps above and you're still not sure whether your win notice is legitimate, you can contact PCH directly to ask them to verify your prize. Do NOT use the telephone numbers or email addresses included in your win notice; scammers will use fake contact information, too. For more information, see How to Contact Publishers Clearing House.

PCH Scams on Facebook:

Swindlers have turned to social media to try to make you trust them and hand over your money. Unfortunately, it's not difficult to use Facebook to create a very convincing scam.

Swindlers simply create a Facebook page that mimics the look of a real PCH page, but which is in no way affiliated with the company. They'll steal company logos, the color scheme, photos of Prize Patrol members, and more to make their fake page look trustworthy.

Fans find and follow the page, and all that the con men have to do is message their followers and tell them they've won a prize. And then they ask for money before you can claim your "winnings." Victims hand over cash but never see a prize.

To keep yourself safe from these scams, learn how to recognize and avoid fake Facebook pages. And remember: PCH never, ever notifies winners by Facebook messages.

If you want to follow Publishers Clearing House on Facebook, find their official pages by using this list from PCH's website: Facebook Scams: Friend or Faux?. If you want to follow Publishers Clearing House, use one of those pages.

Still Not Sure? Get More Tips Directly from

Publishers Clearing House works diligently to fight scams, both by working with law enforcement officials and through public education. For more tips on avoid Publishers Clearing House scams, visit the Contest Integrity section of the Publishers Clearing House website,

Have You Been Scammed?

If you have read this article too late, and you have already sent money to a PCH con artist, contact your local police. You also need to be extra cautious in the future, because many times, people who have been scammed are considered easy prey, and they will be targeted again.

If you noticed you were being scammed in time and didn't send any money, check out these top 7 places to report sweepstakes scams.

You can also follow these steps to report a scam directly to Publishers Clearing House.