MASSENA - While nearly everyone has likely received an envelope in the mail from Publishers Clearing House, chances are most of those envelopes ended up in the garbage.
Some people though do enter the sweepstakes in hopes of becoming a millionaire and earning a one-way ticket to Easy Street.
Kathy A. Clark of Massena is one of those people and on Friday morning she received a phone call informing her that her life was about to be changed forever.
Unfortunately though, the call was a scam.
Ms. Clark said the call came at about 10 a.m. from a man who identified himself as Robert Johnson and claimed to be a representative from the well-known sweepstakes firm.
I said, Yeah right, Ms. Clark recalled Friday evening, to which Mr. Johnson replied, Excuse me, maam?
Had Ms. Clark not entered the contest, it would be easy to tell from the get-go that the call was a scam, however, since she did enter the contest Ms. Clark said that while she was skeptical she didnt immediately dismiss the mans claims.
I said, This must be some kind of joke, but he told me I won third prize - $1.5 million and a Mercedes Benz, Ms. Clark said, noting that she again expressed skepticism to Mr. Johnson.
He said, Why would Publishers Clearing House waste its time and call you for nothing? she recalled. He said a lawyer would be coming to my house with the check and car.
Ms. Clark said she was even asked if she preferred it to be black or white.
To help convince Ms. Clark of the calls authenticity, she said Mr. Johnson spoke of how on Thursday he had informed the second prize winner of her $2.5 million prize.
Mr. Johnson then volunteered to put his manager on the line, at which point someone else may or may not have joined the conversation.
I think he was just changing his voice, she said.
The manager then asked Ms. Clark if she would like her prize publicly announced or kept private.
I told him it wouldnt matter, because if someone came to my house with a check and a car, I would probably have a stroke, Ms. Clark said.
Mr. Johnson then told the woman that if she provided him with her email address he could send her proof that this call was not a scam. She admits to providing the man with her email address, but said she still remained unconvinced the call was real.
She was then given the companys office number and told she could call them back. She did and was on the phone with Mr. Johnson for roughly 45 more minutes, although by now Ms. Clark said she was quickly realizing the call was a scam.
Next, Ms. Clark said she was told there was a luxury tax of $199.82 that she would have to pay to receive her prize.
They asked me which was closest to me, WalMart, Rite-Aid or Walgreens. I said, Rite-Aid, my daughter works there. He then told me to go to Rite-Aid and get a Green Dot Money Pack Scratch Card.
At that point, Ms. Clark said she turned the tables on Mr. Johnson while continuing to play along.
Ms. Clark said she was told to send her husband to the store so she could be home in case the lawyer arrived early.
He said when the lawyer came to the door I could give her the card for the luxury tax and then they would present me with the check and car, Ms. Clark recalled, noting the man also asked if her husband had left yet.
I said, Yeah, but I winked at him and told him not to go, because I knew this was a scam, Ms. Clark said.
At that point, Mr. Johnson said he made a phone call to the attorney through three-way calling, and thats when the scam became almost comical.
He disguised his voice to talk like the lawyer (who he said was a woman), and said she was half an hour away, Ms. Clark recalled, adding that a short time later she informed Mr. Johnson her husband had arrived back home.
He asked me to read him the number on the back of the card (which she didnt have because her husband never actually left), she recalled. He then wanted me to read him the number on the back of the card. I then said, Okay, I get it now. Youre going to get $199.82 and Im going to get nothing. He asked why I didnt trust him and I said, Because you told me I could give it to the lawyer.
At that point, Ms. Clark said her husband, John, took the phone and the conversation grew hostile.
My husband took the phone and said, This is a scam. He then said, (two word expletive deleted)! and my husband said, Those were my exact words for you, she recalled, adding she then got back on the line before hanging up the phone.
I told him, I had him from the beginning and thats how she had the police trace back the call. He then said, (expletive deleted) too! Your phone bill is going to be over $300.
While Ms. Clark said the call was ultimately traced back to Jamaica, she said the calls origins were traced by the telephone company, as Ms. Clark said the police department declined to respond to her home.
Ms. Clark said she now wants other members of the public to be aware of the scam, so they dont fall for what she said was, at least initially, a pretty convincing scam.
Hes good and hes probably going to get that money from somebody, she said, adding the lady from the phone company told her she would have done the same thing.
And while the scam didnt end up costing her $199.82, Ms. Clark said she is going to be on the hook for the phone call to Jamaica, which shes expecting to cost more than $1 per minute.
And while the outcome may not have hit her pocketbook as hard as it could have, Ms. Clark said the scam hit her heart and is going to make trusting people in the future a lot more difficult.
Im going to have a hard time trusting anyone, she said.