BBB warns of publishing sweepstakes scam

Consumers beware.

The local Better Business Bureau has issued an alert involving the use of the names of the "BBB," and "Publishers Clearing House," a company that provides an array of ways to participant in –– and win –– its annual sweepstakes prizes.

The company also uses the sweepstakes promotions to advertise its consumer products, magazine deals and promotional offers, according to a spokeswoman for the BBB.

Dottie Callina said consumers are contacting the BBB after receiving calls from someone calling himself Michael Carboni. This person claims he works for the Better Business Bureau, and tells people the call is about an investigation the BBB conducted on the awards that Publishers Clearing House presents to consumers, she explained.

"BBB warns consumers this is a scam, and one of several we have seen using the [Publishers] Clearing House name," she said.

Callina said the local Better Business Bureau called the phone number provided for Michael Carboni, and when contact was made, the bureau was advised that the phone number belonged to the "BBB," and that the office was located in the District of Columbia.

"As we pressed for more information, they disconnected the call," said Callina.

The phone number had an area code of 876, said Callina. This area code comes from Jamaica, a country were many such scams currently originate, she advised.

Consumers should know that federal law mandates that payments are not required in order for a sweepstakes participant to win a prize, she said.

The BBB, she added, would never be involved in promotions like these, or call consumers about pending investigations. Information from the BBB regarding complaints is sent via e-mail or regular mail.

The bureau would never request for a consumer to make a phone call out of the country, or ask for money, Callina stressed.

"If you should receive any [e-mails] from Publishers Clearing House indicating you have won a prize, but need to send money –– DON'T!" she exclaimed.

Consumers should call Publishers Clearing House directly, for more information, at 1-800-459-4724, Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m., to 8:30 p.m. People can also visit the Publishers Clearing House web site at www.pch.com.