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

If you receive an email, phone call, or letter from Publishers Clearing House saying that you're a big winner it's important to be able to tell the difference between a legitimate prize win and a sweepstakes scam.

Prize wins often feel too good to be true — and sometimes, they are. Big-name sweepstakes sponsors like PCH are a prime target for scammers, so it's important to think before you react to any win notification from them.

Here are some common questions from PCH "winners":

  • "I just received a notice in the mail from Publishers Clearing House. They're 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. Should I cash the check?"
  • "Publishers Clearing House keeps calling and telling me I've won $100,000,000. They say I have to pay 1% in taxes before they release the prize. What should I do?"

Keep reading for answers.

6 Ways to Recognize and Avoid PCH Scams

Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes are legit, but not every win notification from them is. Why? Many scammers misuse the PCH name — and some of those scams are sophisticated enough to make it difficult to tell if you've really won or not.

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 affiliated with Publishers Clearing House when they're not. PCH is a popular target of 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 if you receive a prize notification by any method other than certified mail or an in-person award, you know you're 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.

If your prize notification asks for money to pay for taxes, to release the prize, to pay for customs, or for any other reason, it's a scam.

3. Don't Give Out Confidential Information When You Enter

You don't have to give Publishers Clearing House your address, bank account number, driver license number, or any other confidential information when you enter.

You may have to fill out an affidavit to verify eligibility if you win, but not when you enter. If the entry form is asking for this kind of personal information, it's a sign you are on a spoofed website.

A spoofed website tries to appear like the official PCH entry form. If you use it, however, you transmit your information directly to scammers instead.

Here are some tips on how to identify fake websites.

4. A Check Doesn't Mean You've Won

A popular sweepstakes scam makes 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

Before you respond to any win notice, take some steps to verify your prize wins.

For example, use Google to search for similar win notifications that victims reported to consumer organizations. Check that the person sending the notice really works for PCH. Make sure you actually entered the giveaway you supposedly won.

Before you respond to any notifications, take these steps to protect yourself

6. Verify Your Wins With Publishers Clearing House Directly

If you've gone through 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 to verify your prize. Scammers can fake that information to trick their victims. For example, if you call a number in your win notice, you might reach the scammer, not the legitimate PCH organization. Use the information on the PCH website instead.

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 uses fake Publishers Clearing House pages to trick victims.

The scam works something like this: Scammers 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, the PCH color scheme, photos of Prize Patrol members, and more to make their fake page look trustworthy.

PCH fans find and follow the page, and the scammers message them to tell them they've won a prize, 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. 

Remember, too, that all of PCH's official pages have been verified by Facebook. Don't trust any PCH page without a blue verification badge.

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?

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 PCH website, PCH.com.

Have You Been Scammed?

If you've already sent money to a PCH scammer, contact your local police office. You'll also need to be extra cautious in the future because scammers consider people who have already been scammed to be easy prey, and there's 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 7 places to report sweepstakes scams. You can also follow these steps to report a scam directly to Publishers Clearing House.