Scammers Target Local Sheriff - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Scammers Target Local Sheriff

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Sheriff Gets Publishers Clearing House Scam Sheriff Gets Publishers Clearing House Scam

PENDLETON, OR - Some telephone scammers are really smart. Others, not so much.

   The ones that called Umatilla County Sheriff Terry Rowan at his office Monday; not very smart.
The sheriff sent NBC Right Now a long letter explaining how the callers told him he'd won millions of dollars and a Mercedes through Publishers Clearing House. 

   Sheriff Rowan says he knew the call was a scam from the beginning but strung the callers along. He listened to red flag after red flag, including being asked to pay fees to get his prizes. The sheriff finally told the scammers who he was and that he would do whatever he could to find them.

   Here is the sheriff's full, interesting and informative letter:

RE: Scam Alert
I received a very interesting phone call this morning. A person by the name of Mary Elizabeth called me and
said she was from Publisher’s Clearing House. She was notifying me that I won the first place prize of 2.5 million
dollars. She spoke with an accent with broken English, and was very difficult to understand. The number she called
from was from Jamaica, which I didn’t initially catch at first. Mary Elizabeth asked me how I felt about winning that
much money, and what this meant to my family. She provided me with a claim number and followed that by asking me
to call her manager to make arrangements for the delivery of the $2.5 million. She said there was some urgency, and I
needed to call her manager as soon as I hung up with her. She provided me with a phone number and told me to give her
manager the claim number.
I attempted to call the number she provided twice, but it went directly to a very unprofessional sounding voice
mail. Moments later, Mary Elizabeth called back and said the number she provided was having difficulties receiving
phone calls. She then provided me with another phone number.
I called the number and reached a man who called himself John Baker. He asked me to provide my claim
number so he could look me up and verify my prize. I gave him the claim number and he started speaking when the
phone went dead. He called me back from another number and said they were having trouble with the public line. He
said he was now calling from a private line. John Baker told me I was the first place winner of the Publisher’s Clearing
House sweepstakes. Initially, he said I won $550,000 and a 2016 Mercedes Benz.
John Baker asked me how I felt about winning that much money and a new car. He then changed the amount of
my prize from $550,000 to $950,000. He said it was really nice that I am from Oregon because there are no sales taxes,
so the taxes on that sum of money would not be that great, but, he said there are Federal, State and County taxes that
would have to be paid. When I asked, he verified that I won $950,000 and a 2016 Mercedes Benz and he added that
these prizes were to be delivered within an hour.
I asked how I would receive the winnings. He said his manager, (the delivery manager); Mary Elizabeth who I
spoke to earlier was 45 minutes to an hour away from me. He verified my address several times, which of course is the
address to the Sheriff’s Office. He told me I would have to register my claim and show receipt to the delivery manager
prior to claiming my prize. I asked him if my prize was coming via the PCH van, with the big check and balloons. He
confirmed, and said my new Mercedes Benz was on a tow truck behind the van.
John Baker asked if I was married, divorced, employed or retired, nothing terribly personal. He asked me if
there was a Walmart nearby. I said there was one just ten minutes away. He said that was great, and he would stay on
the line while I drove to Walmart so he could verify that I paid the $499.00 registration fee. John Baker said it was 

urgent that I go to Walmart immediately and obtain the receipt for the registration fee. He said the delivery manager was
nearby, but could deliver my prizes unless I paid the registration fee and had the receipt.
Mr. Baker then asked me if I wanted a public delivery or private one. I told him I wanted a very public delivery,
and expressed my excitement about winning. He went on to say it would be better for me if this was a private delivery
because there were scammers out there who may take advantage of me, knowing I won that sum of cash. He said
someone might come to my home and try to take the money. He said he would arrange for the private delivery.
Throughout the conversation, I asked John Baker where he was. He would initially only say that the delivery
manager was nearby with my prize. Finally, he told me he was calling from the PCH claims office in Las Vegas,
Nevada. I told him how much I enjoyed going to Las Vegas, and that I’ve went there during this time of the year for the
National Finals Rodeo. I also informed him that sometimes I go to Las Vegas in the spring for the Western States
Sheriff’s Association Conference, which is held there annually.
Knowing this to be a scam from the very beginning, I explained to Mr. Baker that I am a Sheriff. I told him if he
checked my address, or searched the Internet, he would have learned that the address belongs to the Umatilla County
Sheriff’s Office, and that I am the head of the organization. I tried to get personal information from Mr. Baker and let
him know that I would make every effort to locate him and his partners in crime to put a stop to their scamming. The
phone went dead before he gave any information. I called his phone numbers, but, surprise, no answer.
I want to let everyone know not to fall for this or any other type of scam. If you are notified that you have won a
“prize” and are asked to do anything, or pay anything to claim it, “IT IS A SCAM!” Please protect your personal
information and do not provide the scammer with anything! If they claim to be from your bank and ask for your account
number and Social Security number, “IT IS A SCAM!” Hang up and call your bank directly. If you receive a call from
the IRS saying you owe taxes and if you refuse to pay they will come and arrest you, “IT IS A SCAM.” If it can happen
to me, it can happen to anyone…
Please report any suspicious calls or activity to your local police. If this happens, you can also file a complaint
with the FBI by going to, or the Oregon Attorney General’s Office at

Terry L. Rowan / Sheriff Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office