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Warning issued about telephone scammers

ALBANY "Hey, I'm from Publishers Clearing House and you won $250,000. Just send me $2,500 in Costa Rica and the money is yours."

Not so fast. At least four potential victims from Dougherty County in their 70s smelled a rat. They didn't bite.

The Dougherty County Sheriff's Office wants to warn residents about a scam that seems to be targeting older residents.

"We had four people call us and tell us about this scam. They are targeting seniors," said sheriff's Captain Craig Dodd. "I'd hate to see anyone, especially seniors, fall for it."

Here is how the scam works. Someone will call and pose as a state or federal official. They will say that they have a check for $200,000 or more waiting for you.

All that the lucky winner has to do is pay the tax of $2,500. Winners are told to send the money via Western Union money wire to an address in Costa Rica.

Dodd said, "We've had someone who said they were from the Federal Reserve Bank in Washington (D.C.) acting for Publisher's Clearing House. In another call that they are a customs official in Miami International Airport and that U.S. customs and Costa Rican taxes must be paid to get the check."

The four county residents didn't fall for it. However Dodd feels there may be others who haven't called his office at (229) 431-3222 to report the scam calls.

"The problem is that if you wire the money with Western Union, the money is gone. You can't get it back," Dodd said. "Publisher's Clearing House has warnings on its website."

A sample warning from the website, customerservice.pch.com: "Publishers Clearing House (PCH) does NOT make or authorize outgoing calls to consumers to sell merchandise or magazines, or to solicit contest entries. Our major winners are notified by mail or in person (at our option) and we never phone ahead to disclose that someone has won a major prize. If you receive a phone call from someone claiming to be from Publishers Clearing House and are asked to send money, pay a fee or pre-pay taxes to enter, collect or claim a sweepstakes prize -- STOP -- you have not heard from the 'real' Publishers Clearing House.

"The call you received was most likely from a fraudulent sweepstakes scam operation."