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Fake sweepstakes calls are targeting seniors

The old Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes scam is sweeping though the area, targeting senior citizens with fake checks sent by mail, according to the regional Better Business Bureau.

It’s worth remembering what is legit and what is not when it comes to Publishers Clearing House, particularly since an 83-year-old Las Cruces woman won the real deal last month.

Gloria Guzman, who had been entering the contest for over three decades, won a one-time award of $10,000 and an annually recurring award of $10,000 for the rest of her life.

But before you start salivating, know this: it happens exactly the way you might have seen it on TV. A two-person Publishers Clearing House Prize Patrol showed up announced at Guzman’s door, roses, balloons and oversized check in hand. That’s the only way the contest organizers notify their winners.

They do not call on the phone, nor do they send a letter in the mail.

The regional BBB, which serves New Mexico and southwestern Colorado, says the recent round of fake notifications involve a mailing about “lottery winnings … using the (Publishers) Clearing House name and brand as a means to earn the consumer’s trust.”

Those contacted are told to keep their winnings confidential and are given a number to call so they can learn how to collect the money. In some versions, people are asked to purchase gift cards while others are asked to send in a check to cover fees.

The BBB is urging people not to send out information when contacted about a contest they haven’t entered nor should they try to cash a check “sent via a postal service from a sketchy source.”

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An annoying phone call is making the rounds, promising to help you with – annoying phone calls. It seems to be targeting Century Link customers.

Several Albuquerque residents reported getting what sounds like similar phone messages in which the caller wants to provide “an important system upgrade notice” having to do with blocking robocallers and telemarketers. The voice mail bypasses caller ID and is left without the phone ever ringing.

The caller says the government’s Do Not Call Registry has come up with a new method of blocking robocalls and can be ordered by upgrading the person’s Century Link phone line “for just pennies a month.” There are discounts for seniors, military members and small business owners, the caller says.

One woman says she was given a few options for further information, such as pressing a couple of numbers or calling a toll-free line.

A spokesman for Century Link says the calls are not affiliated with the company.

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Note to small businesses: That was not the real Google threatening to remove your business listing unless you made a payment.

The Federal Trade Commission has filed a lawsuit against a Florida company accused of making such calls and demanding fees of up to $700.

Those who fell for it were pressured with offers for even more expensive services that would supposedly improve their Google search results.

Among those targeted, according to the FTC, were music instructors, house painting companies, car dealerships, and other small businesses.

“They knew that appearing in online searches is crucial for those businesses, and threatening that connection with customers might make people act before stopping to think,” the FTC says.

The agency’s advice: “If you get a call like this, don’t press any buttons. Don’t call the number back, and don’t engage. That just encourages the scammers.”

Ellen Marks is assistant business editor at the Albuquerque Journal. Contact her at or 505-823-3842 if you are aware of what sounds like a scam. To report a scam to law enforcement, contact the New Mexico Consumer Protection Division toll-free at 1-844-255-9210.