80-year-old Huntsville woman with cancer scammed out of hundreds of dollars

Fake Publishers Clearing House scam impacting local family

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - A Huntsville woman is now out hundreds of dollars.

The caller said she had won $1.5 million, but had to send some payments for verification first.
The caller said she had won $1.5 million, but had to send some payments for verification first. (Source: WAFF)

Why? She fell victim to a phone scam. But she’s by far not the first.

Victoria Martin tells us it started with a phone call about a week ago.

The caller claimed he was with Publishers Clearing House and she had won $1.5 million, but there was a catch, to claim her prize, she had to pay up.

”I said, I don’t have time for foolishness,” Martin said.

But the calls kept coming.

“He says while you’re at the post office I need you to pick up a $200 money order. I went, ‘David, I don’t have that kind of money,’ but Alan let me have it, my son,” she explained.

She says the scammers kept giving her more hoops to jump through for her so-called prize money from Publisher’s Clearing House.

But it didn’t stop there, Martin was also told to load $350 dollars on a Greendot Visa Card, and hand over the card information.

“I have a friend from the church that rents a room from me, and he said, Victoria this is a scam. It’s a scam. There’s just no other word for it,” she said.

Even with her doubts, it was the thought of being able to provide for her son, who has special needs, that pushed Martin to take the risk.

“I’ve got pancreatic cancer, I know that I’m dying. I’ve got a down syndrome disability son in the basement. Even he said, ‘momma, what if it’s not real?’ And that was before I put any money in it. And I said, ‘son, if God brings me home before he does you, I have to know that financially, somebody will take care of you,’” Martin said.

This scam has been going on for years.

When you call the Publishers Clearing House phone line, you’ll hear this: “If you are a consumer calling about a call, letter, or email saying that you have won a prize, you have not heard from the real Publisher’s Clearing House.”

The Better Business Bureau warns Publishers Clearing House never asks people to pay upfront fees for anything. The company is frequently and fraudulently mimicked by scammers because of its reputation for real prizes.”

“Yes, I fell for it. I’m an old fool and I’m stupid to have done it. But I was just praying for honesty,” Martin said.

Martin says she reached out to us in part so other vulnerable people like herself will learn from her mistake.

There is now a GoFundMe set up for Victoria Martin and her son by a local pharmacist. If you would like to read more about her story or donate, you can do so on the donation page.

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