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

Have you ever received an email, phone call, or letter from Publishers Clearing House saying that you were a big winner? If so, it's important to know how to tell the difference between a legitimate prize win and a sweepstakes scam.

If you have received a questionable win notification  you may be asking yourself questions like:

  • "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?"

Do any of these win notifications indicate that you have really won a Publishers Clearing House jackpot?

6 Ways to Recognize and Avoid PCH Scams

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?

Scammers are adept at making people believe that they are really affiliated with Publishers Clearing House when they are not. PCH is a popular target of their scams because people are familiar with the company and want to believe they have really won a prize.

But a legitimate-looking win notification should not be enough to make you believe you are a big winner.

 Logos can be copied, names of legitimate PCH employees can be found on Google, signatures can be forged. You need to be familiar with how PCH really notifies its big winners.

 Here are six 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. Do Your Research Before You Respond
There are some steps that you can take to verify your prize wins. Some of them include never, ever paying money to receive a prize and using Google to search for similar win notifications that have been reported to consumer organizations as scams. Before you respond to any notifications, take these steps to protect yourself

6. You Can Always Verify Your Wins with Publishers Clearing House
If you have checked the steps above and you're still not sure if 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 fake that information to trick their victims.

PCH Scams on Facebook

Facebook is a fabulous tool for sweepstakes fans, but it can also be a breeding ground for scams. One of these common scams involve fake Publishers Clearing House pages.

The scam works something like this: con men create a Facebook page that mimics the look of a real PCH page or a personal page of one of PCH's employees. They'll steal company logos, their color scheme, photos of Prize Patrol members, and more to make their fake page look trustworthy.

PCH fans find and follow the page, and all that the con men have to do is message them and tell them they've won a prize. They then ask for money before they can claim their "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 PCH.com

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, PCH.com.

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 office. You will also need to be extra cautious in the future ​because scammers consider people who have been scammed to be easy prey, and there is a good chance that you 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.