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Phone scams on the rise since the start of the pandemic, High Point elderly woman avoids becoming a victim

Pearline McManus, 71, of High Point said the caller claimed to work for Publishers Clearing House. They said she won millions plus a car.
Credit: WFMY News 2

HIGH POINT, N.C. — An elderly High Point woman was told she won millions of dollars. The caller claimed to be with Publishers Clearing House.

Pearline McManus, 71, said everything sounded promising at first. 

"They said 'you have won $2.5 million dollars and a 2020 Mercedes Benz.'"

Then they told her in order to claim the prize, she would first need to purchase a prepaid gift card at a local store. 

"They wanted me to get a Visa gift card for $150 dollars, they said it was some sort of registration for the government."

RELATED: VERIFY: Do people really win the Publishers Clearing House? Or is it a scam?

She noticed the red flags right away. 

"If they ask you for any money it's a scam," McManus explained. "Don't give them a penny, don't give them a dime because that's all they want: your money."

Financial Crimes Detective Ryan Klejmont with High Point Police said McManus is one smart cookie.

"If you start hearing gift cards, know that it's no good," Detective Klejmont stated. "If they're talking money orders, no to that too. Basically no one should ever ask you for money over the phone, period."

Detective Klejmont said the department gets one or two reports of this kind of crime a week, and it's only gotten worse since the start of the pandemic. 

"There is an increase but not so much for the reason of financial hardships, it's more so because they know that people will be home when you call. You know elderly folks are usually the target, and they're not at their usual breakfast spots or wherever else right now."

RELATED: Scammers Call A North Carolina Woman With A Disturbing Amount Of Knowledge About her

The Publishers Clearing House website also has fraud protection tips. They state that winning may be a long-shot, but it's always free. 

High Point Police have another warning about a crime on the rise since the beginning of the pandemic: mail theft.

Here is a PSA from Klejmont:

Please stop sending checks through the mail from their personal mailboxes. Mail theft is through the roof, the checks are stolen from mailboxes with their flags raised, the checks are then washed (altered) and used elsewhere for values in the thousands of dollars.  These fraudsters are aware that most mail in mailboxes with a flag raised contain money or checks to pay things so it is like “shooting fish in a barrel” so to speak.  They drive around and take any mail in boxes with flags raised.  This is happening almost daily.