The New “Hybrid” Scam

No, it’s not a phony ad for cars that run on both gas and electricity!

In their never-ending quest to rip off seniors and others, scammers keep coming up with new ideas, including creating “mashups” of tried-and-true schemes. This has surfaced recently with what we’re calling the “hybrid” scam.

Sweepstakes and other prize scams have been around forever. Fake check scams have also been fooling people for quite awhile, especially since the advent of low-cost, high quality color printing. What’s new is the combination of the 2 scam varieties into one deceptive package.

It works like this: The victim receives a letter that purports to be from Publisher’s Clearing House or another of the big name sweepstakes houses. They read that they have won a big prize, but not THE big prize (because that would raise suspicion–“Where’s the film crew and big cardboard check?”). In a moment of apparent “helpfulness,” the company seems to have included a check to cover the taxes. The instructions tell the victim to deposit the check and then simply wire the money for the taxes to a third party, and in some variations they tell the “winner” to put the money on a prepaid debit card and give the code to someone else.

The problem is that the money from the fake check has to be available in the victim’s account within a brief time according to banking regulations.  If the unsuspecting target wires the money quickly, they are on the hook for the funds they sent to the accomplice when the check turns out to be bogus.

So how do you prevent this from happening? Frequent readers of our blog here and on will recognize a number of Dead Giveaways for a Scam in this scenario:

  • A fantastic, too-good-to-be-true offer that excites emotions and hijacks the victim’s thinking brain
  • A request for money of any kind, especially for a prize
  • The use of a money wiring service or prepaid card
  • Presence of urgency as the victim is pushed to wire the money immediately

An additional prevention step is to always verify a claim, but not using a source the scammers provide.

(Many thanks to the BBB for this information. Remember that Publisher’s Clearing House is a BBB Accredited Business)


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