KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — You’ve won a new car! Millions of dollars! Cash for life! The crazy thing is, you don’t remember entering the contest. Con artists continue to pose as Publishers Clearing House and play on our desire to “get rich quick.”

They’ve now added a ploy to their con game, an official-looking document claiming you are a winner. We’re On Your Side showing you what the documents say and explain how to avoid this scam.

For how many people the letter of confirmation may clinch the deal. Con artists have to come up with different schemes hoping you will believe their pitch about your winnings.

First, there was the real-looking check with your name on it. Now, scammers have gone an extra step sending you official-looking documentation from trusted sources that you are a winner.

Like many people across the country, Gary has purchased magazines from Publishers Clearing House. But he’s never won any prize from the company famous for it’s Prize Patrol. And, Gary did not win this multimillion dollar jackpot from PCH, even though a caller said he had.

“‘You’re a winner of two-and-a-half million dollars, seventy-five hundred dollars a month for the rest of your life, and a 2021 new Mercedes car,'” Gary read.

To convince Gary that the deal was real, he was sent verification from two sources — the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission — claiming he had won the money.

“Making me feel that this is all legitimate. Later I found out the Better Business Bureau hadn’t used this logo in several years,” Gary said.

There was also a fee he had to pay to claim his prize.

“At the very bottom of the last page, it says for you to send them forty-nine hundred dollars for an insurance policy,” Gary said.

Fraudsters involved in this type of scam will not only use several official looking letters informing you about guaranteed winnings but they’re also try to convince you over the phone about winning the sweepstakes.

“Oh, they look really good. They’re using a lot of name-brand companies, like the Better Business Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission, Bank of America, Mercedes,” Tony Binkley, president and CEO of the BBB of Greater East Tennessee, said. “They did a good job in putting this together.”

Here are some red flags:

  • Be wary of unsolicited correspondence. If you can’t recall entering the contest, it’s likely a scam.
  • Never pay fees to claim a prize. You don’t pay upfront before receiving winnings. Not even taxes.
  • Look for typos or misspellings, as they’re tell-tale signs of a scam.

The scammers’ ultimate goal is for the would-be winners to send them money:

“That’s always the goal: Send us money. Send us a little bit and we’ll send you a lot, that’s always what they want,” Binkley said.

The real Publishers Clearing House says winning is always free and you never have to pay to claim a prize. If someone contacts you claiming to be from PCH, and tells you that you’ve won a prize or sends you information about your so-called winnings, you are not hearing from the real PCH.

Recognizing the difference between legitimate sweepstakes and other types of offers that may not be legitimate will help you protect yourself and your family.