Publishers Clearing House prize scheme hits Central Florida

Scam claims to collect 'registration fee'

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – A Publishers Clearing House scheme is showing up in Central Florida and the payoff for scammers is $250 of a victim's money, authorities said.

According to detectives, unlike the real Prize Patrol, the impostors never knock at the door with a prize.

Peter Vaccaro, 74, of Volusia County, said he plays online PCH video games, so when Tony Rozzo of the Prize Patrol called him, he thought he was really a $5,000 winner.

“I said, ‘Do I know you?’” Vaccaro said. “He said ‘No, you won $5,000.’”

Vaccaro, who lives in a 55-and-older community,  was convinced that the call was legitimate when the man who called himself Tony Rozzo claimed to be in Orlando ready to deliver the big prize to his home.

Vaccaro wired $250 as he was instructed to North Carolina via MoneyGram.

His neighbor, Paulette White, called the Volusia County Sheriff’s Department and then called News 6.

“He lives on a fixed income,” White told News 6. “That was every penny he had.”

Vaccaro said he was embarrassed and admitted that he was “gullible.”

Volusia County Sheriff Michael Chitwood met last week with News 6, Vaccaro and White.

Chitwood said the county has seen a variety of schemes designed to steal from people like Vaccaro.

“This is a scam we see all too often,” Chitwood told News 6. “They gain their confidence and trust and they're off to make this investment.”

Publishers Clearing House spokesman Chris Erving said the company has been working closely with law enforcement in and out of the U.S.

In an email to News 6, Erving wrote:  “Many of these scams now come from Jamaica, and we have been pleased that over the past year there have been extraditions, trials and convictions against some of these bad actors, most recently by the Department of Justice in North Dakota.  We continue to work diligently to educate and provide assistance to any such enforcement efforts.”

To see how to recognize a PCH scam, visit https://www.thebalance.com/how-to-recognize-publishers-clearing-house-scams-896723.

You can find information on Publishers Clearing House's efforts to stop the scammers at https://info.pch.com/category/fraud/.

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