Woodruff resident Peggy Marquez answered a phone call one day from someone claiming to be a representative of Publishers Clearing House, looking for an individual who had won a large sum of money.
When Marquez had told the caller the person they were looking for didn’t live there, the caller said since Marquez had been the one to answer the phone, then she was the winner.
Marquez said the caller asked for her name and she had won $7.5 million dollars, or $5,000 a week and a Mercedes Benz.
“And I’m wondering if this is a scam,” Marquez said.
As the call continued and the caller asked for more information, Marquez grew hesitant to give it out.
She asked the caller if there was a number she could call to verify she was speaking with Publishers Clearing House.
“He gave me the number he was calling from,” Marquez said. “He said his name was Robert Jones.”
Marquez said she had called the Publishers Clearing House scam line as well as the Federal Trade Commission.
According to Marquez, the caller was offering the prize in return for money, and that Publishers Clearing House had heard of the scam before.
Marquez said the scammers were calling from different areas and asking customers to send checks or wire money in order to win the prize.
“Publishers Clearing House will not call you. At all,” Marquez stated.
Marquez also advised buyers to beware.
“If it sounds too good to be true, don’t fall for it.”
Proactive instead of reactive
Marquez’s story is just one of the many scams which have surfaced in the Lakeland area since the start of the year.
According to Minocqua chief of police Dave Jaeger, the department had received 11 reported scams since Jan. 22.
“Some people are out money and they’re very difficult to investigate,” Jaeger said, stating he had investigated one traced back to Nigeria.
Jaeger reported the scam reported on Jan. 22 was a scammer claiming to be from Publishers Clearing House who had instructed the “winner” to forward $850 via the postal service to an address in Florida.
The Vilas County sheriff’s office has also reported receiving reports of phone scams.
Phone scams are not only hard to investigate, they’re also fairly difficult to track, according to Vilas County chief deputy Patrick Schmidt.
As of Jan. 1, Schmidt estimates the sheriff’s office had received 45 complaints.
“That’s just reported frauds,” Schmidt clarified. “We also get calls where people just give us information, so it’s somewhat difficult to track.”
Schmidt said scam reports tended to come “in waves” and the department was familiar with the Publishers Clearing House scam. He also said there were “so many people” who don’t call and report scams.
“The problem we run into that most other counties don’t is we have a fairly large elderly population, and the scammers tend to take advantage more of the elderly population than they do anybody else,” Schmidt said.
The department is aiming to be more proactive instead of reactive, working with local groups to try and get the word out about phone scams ahead of time, Schmidt said.
“Just be vigilant,” Schmidt cautioned. “If someone’s telling you you won money, verify and verify. And if they’re asking you to send money back to win money, it’s typically a scam.”
Kayla Houp may be reached via email at [email protected]