PARKSLEY, Va. -- For years, 70-year-old Carol Floyd has dreamed of being a big Publisher's Clearinghouse (PCH) winner. She's a regular player of the sweepstakes.
So when someone called her cellphone claiming to be from Publisher's Clearinghouse, she got excited. The person told her she won a Mercedes Benz. But there was a catch.
"In order for me to get the car, I would have to pay 372 dollars," Floyd explains.
Floyd sent the money via Western Union to the address she was given in Pueblo, Colorado. And that wasn't all. The caller, named Josh, also said she won 3.5 million dollars and to collect, she would need to wire another $1750. She sent it but quickly put a hold on it realizing she was being scammed.
Three different people, all claiming to be from Publisher's Clearinghouse, kept calling her, believing that she was just a few pushy calls away from releasing the rest of the money.
Publisher's Clearinghouse, based in Port Washington, New York confirmed it was a hoax. Senior Manager of Consumer Affairs Margaret Crossan says they spend a lot time combating fraud.
"People must first realize that our sweepstakes are free. The key message is you don't need a dime to win," says Crossan.
She adds the company has been targeted by scams originating in Jamaica, Nigeria and Canada, so it keeps a database in order to keep track of victims and information about their cases, to keep law enforcement updated.
Floyd, who owns a small specialty shop called Treasure Hunt in Parksley on the Eastern Shore, is heartbroken and angry at the same time.
"Makes me sick on my stomach to think that these people are so sorry--so lazy that all they can do is live off of someone else," says Floyd.
What PCH officials don't know is how the criminals manage to always target people who actually play the sweepstakes.
Crossan placed a call to Floyd in order to give her information on the company's fraud alerts and to assure her that PCH will do whatever it can to help catch the criminals who targeted Floyd.
"They knew that I played Publisher's Clearinghouse and they knew the last time I played it. So how did they know that?" says Floyd.
And they are still calling her several times a day, mainly from Jamaican number 876-354-0088.
Crossan hopes to have the number shut down.