Salt Lake City woman offers warning about phone scam

SALT LAKE CITY - When Salt Lake City resident Helen Joe Stoddard got a phone call Wednesday morning, she thought of the old adage: if it's too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true.

A man on the phone told her she had won the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes.

"You've just won $2.5 million and all the taxes will be paid, and we present it to you today," Stoddard said the caller told her.

Stoddard is 95 years old and aware that there are a lot of unscrupulous people out there.  Still, she wanted to believe.

"We all see it on TV, Clearing House, they all win money, so I kind of ... and the first fellow sounded kind of like the ones you see on TV," she said.

But after the caller told her she needed to come up with $2,500 in cash or a cashier's check in that amount to pay a fee, she grew more suspicious and called her son, Mark, in Spanish Fork.

Mark Stoddard told his mother to have the man call him, and he would record it.

"I am Todd Salone, I'm contacting you from Publishers Clearing House," the caller said.

"Sounds like a scam to me," Stoddard replied.

"Well this is not a scam, you can verify this with the main office of the Publishers Clearing House," the caller said.

"You want my mother to write you out a check in advance of this," Stoddard asked.

"Right," the caller answered. "She's getting her registration fee paid to the state government of Utah."

"Yeah that's a whole lot of horse crap," Stoddard retorted. "So don't call again, and don't call my mom again, got it?"

Francine Giani, Executive Director of the Utah Department of Commerce said scams like this one are common.

"If you're getting a phone call from someone that says you've won, but we want you to keep it secret, you need to prepay taxes, or prepay fees, or don't tell anyone in your family: then that's a red flag," Giani said.

Helen Joe Stoddard has learned a lesson.

"Probably the best thing is just to say 'I'm not interested,'" she said.