CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — There is a new scam happening in West Virginia, and this time, tricksters are making false claims about the West Virginia Attorney General, Gov. Jim Justice and the publishing company Publishers Clearing House.

According to Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, scammers are sending a letter supposedly signed by Gov. Justice and stamped with the state seal. The letter claims the recipient won a financial prize from Publishers Clearing House. The letter further purports that Morrisey traveled to New York to negotiate the prize total with the publishing company.

“That is false, I never went to New York to negotiate any sweepstakes winnings for consumers,” Morrisey said. “We will never contact consumers to notify them of their winnings. Indeed, it can be a welcome surprise to unexpectedly win something but it’s crucial that consumers don’t let the excitement overshadow caution and smart thinking.”

The letter then asks consumers to pay $55,913.53 to claim the prize of about $212,000, which will seemingly be “delivered to the recipient’s doorstep.” The Office of the Attorney General says one victim sent $8,000 to claim the supposed prize, but the check payments went to an address in Stockton, California.

Scammers apparently “often use a familiar name to trick consumers into a false sense of trust and unquestioned acceptance.” There were also grammatical errors in the letter, Morrisey’s office reports.

“That’s one of the warning signs of a scam letter—it usually contains inconsistencies and grammatical errors,” Morrisey said. “Look for warning signs such as unusual word choices or improper grammar. Most importantly, never give money to a scammer or allow them to access your credit card or computer.”

Morrey’s office says that although Publishers Clearing House does give prizes, there are some factors to keep in mind when verifying the legitimacy:

  • Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes are free. Winners will never be asked to pay to receive their prize.
  • Publishers Clearing House does not call winners to ask for personal information. They instead notify recipients in person or via certified mail.
  • Consumers should NEVER agree to send cash or wire money. They should also never provide bank account information or credit card numbers.

Anyone who thinks they may have been a scam victim should contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at (800) 368-8808 or the Eastern Panhandle Consumer Protection Office in Martinsburg at (304) 267-0239. Reports can also be made on the Attorney General’s website.