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N4T Investigators: Jackpot hustle - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

N4T Investigators: Jackpot hustle

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Oro Valley - Ted Tonkinson received a call on his cell phone last week from a guy with a foreign accent and a Jamaica area code, 876.

Tonkinson told the News 4 Tucson Investigators the caller said, 'We want to give you eight-million dollars.’
And I said, ‘Who's doing this, who's calling, providing eight million dollars?’ He said, 'Well, this is Publishers Clearing House.’  And I said, 'What do I have to do for eight-million dollars?' And he said, 'Well, you have to come up with 800 dollars.

The 79 year-old Oro Valley resident saw the red flag: Legitimate sweepstakes, including Publishers Clearing House, do not charge any fee. When Ted told the caller he knew it wasn't legit, he says he was threatened.

“He says, ‘We have people in Arizona, and we're going to send somebody out to kill you.’  I said, 'Oh, really? He says, ‘Yes.’” 

A Publishers Clearing House spokesman says the company doesn't even have an $8 million prize and never calls sweepstakes winners. Their prize patrol shows-up, unannounced.

Still, a lot of people want to believe the phone calls saying they've won.

Sergeant Matt Horetski of Oro Valley Police says, “Frauds are definitely on the rise, the numbers are staggering.
Police here are now investigating how a senior citizen recently lost $25,000 in a sweepstakes scam. The department reports 247 fraud cases so far this year, third highest since they started counting 20 years ago, with three months left this year.

Horetski said, “Right now with technology, the ability to create such scams and be so convincing, is where it's at. It's all in the technology.”

The Federal Trade Commission says there are several signs you're dealing with a scam, including:

 -You have to pay a fee. 
 Scammers often call it a "processing" or "shipping and        handling" charge.

-You have to wire money. 
Don't do it. Wiring money is like sending cash. Once it's gone, you can't trace it or get it back. 

-You have to deposit a check they've sent you. 
When you do, they'll ask you to wire a portion of the money back. The check will be fake and you'll owe the bank any money you withdrew.

 “Best advice, hang up the phone, knowing that it's a scam,” Horetsky says. “And then call your local police department.”
 
It is nearly impossible for police to find the scammers, who usually are overseas and use fake phone numbers. 

Tonkinson says after the guy who called him threatened to have him killed, Tonkinson had this response: “I said, 'Well, I will have my Glock ready.’ So then we hung up.”

The Publishers Clearing House scam is one of many trending in our area now. The Internal Revenue Service con is also very common. Scammers call residents saying they owe back taxes and will be arrested if they don't pay immediately. Like PCH, the IRS does not call anyone; they contact you by mail. We’re reported on the IRS scam many times and continue to receive calls from viewers about it. 

Besides hanging up, you can block the phone number if your phone provider offers that service. It probably won't stop all the calls, because scammers use many different phone numbers. You can also block all incoming calls from unknown parties; check with your provider how to do so.

If you have a story you'd like us to investigate, email us at investigators@kvoa.com, or call our tip line at 520-955-4444. 

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