Hawkins woman bilked out of $7,300 in Publishers Clearing House scam

Jeff Bobo • Apr 13, 2019 at 8:30 PM

CHURCH HILL — A Hawkins County resident told police she sent $7,300 in cash to a bogus Publishers Clearing House attorney who told her she owed transaction fees to collect a $550,000 prize.

The 67-year-old Church Hill woman told the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office she received a call on April 1 from someone claiming to be from Publishers Clearing House (PCH) to inform her she had won the $550,000 prize.

A woman claiming to be PCH attorney Debbie Caldwell called her from a number with a 617 Boston area code and stated she needed cash to cover the transaction for the Federal Trade Commission.

Over the next week, the victim sent three envelopes containing a total of $7,300 in cash to a Carolyn Eloise Wright at a Bellflower, California, address.

The victim then called the real PCH and was informed that she was not a winner and that she was the victim of fraud.

She then filed a report with HCSO Deputy Jeff Walker and stated she had received calls from unknown numbers requesting more money.

“I advised (the victim) that this was a scam and not to send any more money, or answer her phone from a number she doesn’t know,” Walker stated in his report. “I told her that she might consider changing her land line number to reduce the amount of unwanted calls, and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission regarding this scam.”

Sheriff Ronnie Lawson has stated that when in doubt Hawkins County residents can call his office at (423) 272-4848 or their local law enforcement agency to check out these callers and determine if they are legitimate.

“Ignore any number you don’t recognize and let them leave a message, and you can tell right off if it’s a scam,” Lawson told the Times-News during a rash of scams last year. “If they want money from you and they tell you to go buy a gift card, it’s a scam. Another good tip is law enforcement agencies don’t call you asking for money, and they definitely don’t call you before they come and arrest you.”