CHARLESTON, WV (WVNS) — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is warning West Virginians to be on the lookout for a scam with the names of the Publishers Clearing House, the Attorney General and the Governor.

A letter with the state seal of West Virginia surfaced recently. It has been allegedly signed by the governor and bears the Attorney General’s name, and purports that Attorney General Morrisey flew to New York to meet with the Board of Directors of Publishers Clearing House to negotiate a prize for the recipient of the letter.

“That is false, I never went to New York to negotiate any sweepstakes winnings for consumers,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “We will never contact consumers to notify them of their winnings. Indeed, it can be a welcome surprise to unexpectedly win something but it’s crucial that consumers don’t let the excitement overshadow caution and smart thinking.”

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey

The scammers asked the consumer to pay $55,913.53 in order to claim the prize of a little more than $212,000, which would be “delivered at your doorstep.”

A consumer who received the letter reportedly sent the scammers $8,000 to claim the supposed prize. The check payments went to an address in Stockton, Calif.

The biggest red flag in recognizing the scam was that there were grammatical errors in the letter.

“That’s one of the warning signs of a scam letter—it usually contains inconsistencies and grammatical errors. Look for warning signs such as unusual word choices or improper grammar. Most importantly, never give money to a scammer or allow them to access your credit card or computer.”

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey

Scammers use many tactics similar to what the Attorney General says. They will often use a familiar name to lull victims into a false sense of trust and unquestioned acceptance, as well as trying to requisition money or information in one way or another.

Although Publishers Clearing House does award prizes, there are some things to look for to verify the legitimacy of any win: 

  • Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes are free to enter and winners never pay to receive their prize.
  • Consumers should never agree to send cash, wire money or provide account numbers associated with a credit/debit card or bank in order to claim a prize.
  • Publishers Clearing House representatives also will never call winners or ask for personal information. They instead notify winners in-person or via certified mail. 

Anyone who believes they have been the victim of a scam should contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 800-368-8808, the Eastern Panhandle Consumer Protection Office in Martinsburg at 304-267-0239 or visit the office online at www.wvago.gov.