Rip-off using Publisher's Clearing House name targets Canton family for pre-paid credit card

CANTON, Ohio - It's a story that could sound real to some people desperate for cash. But it's not and you could end up losing all kinds of money. 

It's all being done using a well-known name as part of the scheme. A family in Canton was hounded and called WEWS to get the word out.

"Congratulations. How do you feel? You're a million-dollar winner?" we asked with tongue firmly implanted in cheek.

"I don't feel that much different," laughed Tammie Wheeler.

The Wheelers got a strange message on their answering machine last week.

"This is John Washington calling from the Publisher's Clearing House to notify and congratulate you that you were nominated for this month's third place lucky winner," said the voice. He went on to say that they should call him.

Her husband Karl called "John Washington" back and left a message on a number traced back to New York City. 

Washington was quick to return the call. Tammie answered. The man promised her $850,000.

"How do you want us to send it?" said Tammie explaining what Washington was telling her.  "Do you want us to send the prize patrol van out to your house with the balloons and the cameras or would you like to do it privately?"

Tammie said he gave her a confirmation number and congratulated her again and again. However, then came the catch. He told Tammie she needed to go to Wal-Mart, load up a pre-paid credit card with $500 and then call him right away with the card's ID number.

"That way he has access to that card and he will then immediately release the Publisher's Clearing House van to come here and meet us in the driveway," Tammie told us.

She knew it was a rip-off and got off the line. But John Washington called back the next day.  He had a conversation with Karl. Tammie had enough and reached out to the 5 On Your Side consumer team.

"I had you guys on the phone while he was on the phone with Karl," Tammie said about when she called to tell us about what was going on.

"This isn't sounding right," said Tammie's son Josh. He wanted the prize to be true because he could get some new additions to his Mustang, but he knew it was a rip-off. He wanted to make sure others didn't fall victim.

"We have to let people know," said Josh. "You can't trust everybody. It's sad to say, but it's how the world is now," he added.

It's a world where complete strangers can try to con you by using some tricky tactics.

"I mean, he left his name. He left his phone number to call him back at so it wasn't just like he was calling us," Tammie warned.

After a long conversation, John Washington thought the Wheelers were on to him. So, he just said he would send them some paperwork and got off the phone right away.

The Better Business Bureau and the FBI have been dealing with the John Washington rip-off for years all over the country. Now it's hitting close to home. So, be ready.

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