St. Paul, MN (KROC-AM News) - The Minnesota Commerce Department has issued an alert concerning a new scam targeting senior citizens.

The alert says Minnesotans have been receiving letters mimicking the branding of Publishers Clearing House that announce the recipient has won the "$100 million Super Cash Giveaway Promotion." The letter includes a check for approximately $6000 and instructions to contact a “claims manager” and not to discuss the win with anyone else.

The Commerce Department warns that when a person targeted for the scam follows the instructions and contacts a claims manager they are instructed to cash the check and wire the funds to scammers, who claim the money will be used to cover the cost of processing their multi-million dollar prize. Ultimately, the check that included in the letter bounces and the recipient loses the money they wired to the scammers along with fees charged for the returned check.

Officials describe the scam as particularly sophisticated. They cite the hijacking of the Publishers Clearing House brand and the professionalism of the scammers staffing the call centers and pretending to be “claims managers.”

To avoid becoming a victim, the Commerce Department’s alert includes the following advice.

  • Do not wire money or send a money order, gift card or cashier’s check. It is almost impossible to recover these funds if you have been scammed.
  • Be wary of urgent requests. Do not fall for a pitch that encourages you to “act now” or creates a false sense of urgency.
  • If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Avoid investments that are pitched as having no risk or offering unrealistic returns. Always be cautious of lottery scams.
  • Never rely on information you receive in a letter or email. Look up contact information yourself and call Publishers Clearing House, or whatever company sent you the letter, directly if you have any questions.

Anyone who has received this letter, or have been targeted by any scam, is asked to contact the Commerce Department.