Sweepstakes Scam Reported in Valley

Scam artists claiming to represent the Publisher’s Clearinghouse are working the San Fernando Valley and telling victims to wire money to cover the costs of delivering their prizes, authorities said.

Police learned about the confidence game about a week ago, when a number of residents called the Los Angeles Police Department’s West Valley Station to ask if the telephone offer was legitimate, said Sgt. Corina Smith.

At that time, police officers attempted to nab the con men by staking out a Western Union office in Downtown Los Angeles where the caller had directed the mark to send $90 to cover insurance and tax costs of delivering a new car, Smith said.

No one showed up to collect the money and the phony representative called back to complain that the resident never sent the cash, Smith said.


Detective Tom Gandara, who investigated the case until he turned it over to the Police Department’s bunco unit Wednesday, said a company spokeswoman told him that there have been reports of similar scams on the East Coast.

All of the residents he contacted told him that they had entered the annual national sweepstakes, he said.

“It’s bizarre,” he said. “The last couple I heard from this morning (Wednesday) were told they won a color television and were told to send a $49 freight charge.”

Gandara said he also has learned that similar complaints from Valley residents have been taken at the Van Nuys and Devonshire stations.

“I think, hopefully, we’ll be able to shut these guys down very soon,” Gandara said. “Otherwise, we hope the publicity will make them go away.”

A recorded message at a toll-free customer service line for the Port Washington, N. Y.-based company warns sweepstakes participants that any requests for money to receive prizes is fraudulent.