Editor’s note: We have updated this story.

BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — The Bay County Sheriff’s Office issued a scam alert Wednesday morning to warn residents of a surge in complaints about an old scam.

The specific scam that has hit the Bay County area in the past month has been ‘The Publisher’s Clearing House’ sweepstakes. Officials added that scammers frequently target the elderly.

This begins with a telephone call to the victim, informing them they have won the sweepstakes, however, they must pay the taxes due on the amount before they can be awarded their ‘winnings.’ The payment can only be done by purchasing gift cards and telling the scammer the codes to redeem the amount on the gift cards.

“This is you’ve won 1 million dollars and the Publisher’s Clearinghouse scams and you need to pay the taxes before that will be paid out,” Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford said. “All that’s going to happen is that you’re going to lose whatever money that you provide on the numbers on the card for. So our best line of defense is this is letting the public know what type of scams are out there.”

Bay County Sheriff’s Officials state that scam investigators have traced these phone calls to Nigeria and Jamaica, making it almost impossible to hold the scammers accountable. Officials added there are several things to remember when receiving scam calls:

• If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
• If you never entered the sweepstakes, then you can’t win it.
• No credible contest will demand tax payment up front and advise using gift cards.

Sheriff Tommy Ford urged family members and caregivers to watch closely who is calling the elderly person in their care, to protect them.

Officials ask that everyone shares this information with elderly family members to prevent victimization.

BCSO fraud investigators estimate that more than $100,000 has been lost through this scam from Bay County residents, and it’s mostly the elderly.