Scammer On The Phone "You Are A Winner!"

Mar 19, 2014

This morning I received a call from a foreign accented man stating I’d won the Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes for $850k and 2014 Red Mercedes Benz with All-State insurance paid. I did fill out a Publishers Clearinghouse sweepstakes last year so in the back of my mind the entire time was…well, I guess it could happen. Certainly I hoped it were true, but I figured it was a prank call or a scam so I hit the record button on my phone system.

The caller was very good at his job never asking for personal information and providing immense amounts of details and information. Different people have their “gullibility” point and the caller’s script made sure to cover most of the bases.

As I said, I kept waiting for the caller to request personal information, but that never happened. When he told me about the car and Allstate Insurance, he asked if I had a driver’s license. I said sure, thinking I’d finally gotten to the scam part, but then he never asked for the number. Psychologically, that’s a great tactic because it gives you a false sense of “well, a legitimate caller would never ask me for that number…maybe it’s legitimate?”

The caller asked me to write down the names whom I would be meeting:

  • David Morgan – the delivery driver
  • Shelia Bell – the attorney
  • Betty Jones – from Bank of America

Again, these names, titles and company associations psychologically bring you closer to the typing point. Which is exactly why they do this.

The bait-and-switch happened 7 minutes into the call when the caller asked me to go to the Dollar General store to meet those three individuals. The caller asked me to buy a “Green Dot Money Pack Dollar Card” to receive my prize money. I told the caller that I would not purchase anything and he hung up.

The Green Dot cards are loved by scammers because they are untraceable. The scam would have been for me to buy a $100 or $200 card and then the caller would want the card number so they could transfer the prize but in fact they would make an opposite transaction and empty the card of its value.

Everyone wants to win prizes so it is difficult to just hang up immediately on the off chance you are one of those lucky ones. Just remember that to never give out personal info and there is never a reason to purchase something to win.

The $64,000 question:

Was there any point where the caller convinced me I was a real winner? It’s my nature to be skeptical, but I have to admit that it is hard to resist the feelings of “could this be true?”. The key to scams is not for the scammer to convince you, the scammer only needs to elevate your hope to the point that it overwhelms your doubt (the “gullibility point”). During the call I kept waiting for the scam and I knew instantly when the scam part of the call began, but there is no doubt that the longer the call went on, my hope elevated.

We all think we’re scam-savvy, but occasionally a fraudster gets past our defenses. Now that you know about the Green Dot MoneyPak scam, you’re not likely to fall prey to it, but there’s a new scam lurking around every corner, waiting to pounce. Here’s how to stay safe:

  1. Never give personal information to a stranger
  2. Never buy anything to receive a prize
  3. Never use Western Union to make a purchase (receiving or sending money to friends and family is okay)
  4. Be wary of anyone who calls on the phone trying to collect a debt
  5. Look up the phone number of the organization the caller claims to represent
  6. Seniors are considered easy prey to fraudsters, so help keep your parents, grandparents, or other elders safe by informing them about the latest scams
  1. Dr M. G. Michel

    Last year about this time I received a call on my cell phone from some foreign sounding individual who wanted to give me a $100 gift card. So I told him that a $100 gift card was not enough and that I needed a $10,000 gift card and he said he didn’t have one. So I asked how many of these gift cards they where giving out during this promotion and he said 200 so I said that is perfect. Why don’t you give me 100 $100 gift cards that would make me happy. He said are you joking and I said I never kid about money. After going back and forth for a while he says ok that he would need $3.95 per card for shipping and handling and I say no problem that would be $395 right and he says yes. Then I say just keep 4 cards and send me 96 and we will call it square. At this point he says you are wasting my time. Then I said you called me and didn’t ask if I was settling down for dinner or if this was a good time. He hung up. They never called again.