The writers here at Make Tech Easier write often about scams and hacks. We report the news of the recent scams, show you how to keep yourself safe from being hacked, discuss products that can help protect your personal data, etc. We do a lot. And the reason is because we care and really want to prevent our readers from becoming victims.
And that’s why I am telling this very personal story. I want to save this from happening to other people. Today I’m not writing the news of a new scam that was just discovered. This time I am writing about a very personal, scary scam that is happening to my 82-year-old recently widowed father. He now lives alone and deals with some memory issues.
The fraud team associated with the financial advisor my father entrusts with his money told us this is a popular scam. It’s sometimes known as the Jamaican Lottery Scam. If you are a victim of this scam, you have been told some or all of the following things via phone.
- You have won the lottery with Publisher’s Clearing House.
- The winnings are varying amounts over $1 million and a white Mercedes Benz.
- You have to pay taxes, fees, shipping, insurance, etc., on your winnings and need to pay that before you can collect.
- They will come and deliver the car and the money to your door.
- You need to send the money via a transfer from Walmart to Walmart, through MoneyGram or Western Union, or simply provide your banking information.
Additionally, the scammers, who are usually located in Jamaica, use the victims as a money-laundering scheme. Sometimes when a victim is sending money, they aren’t really sending to the scammers – they’re sending it to another victim who thinks they are receiving it from the scammers.
The scammers can often badger the victims. This comes in the form of repeated phone calls that can sometimes even threaten violence if their money demands aren’t met. They may also start sending demands through the mail.
If a victim is lucky enough to get the scammers to stop, it doesn’t mean their worries are over. The scammers often sell their victim lists to other scammers. Once your number has been opened up to them, you may never get rid of them.
Frequently the victims are recent widows/widowers who are very vulnerable out of loneliness, fear, etc. They find the victims by perusing obituaries, which also gives them family member names, general location, etc., to where they can look up phone numbers and addresses.
It is important for everyone to remember that official sweepstakes and lotteries will never call you up and ask you to pay money before collecting your winnings. If you are told this, it is 100% a scam.
My father was told he won the lottery, was led to believe they were connected with Publishers Clearing House, and that he would get $2 million dollars and a white Mercedes-Benz. He was very excited to tell me he would be a millionaire in a few days.
We first found out that he was preparing to send them two $10,000 cashiers checks and that they would be at his door a few days later to give him the money and the car. We were able to talk him out of it, but he still believes if he would have sent the money in that he would have gotten those prizes.
Later we checked his bank accounts and found that he had a $500 withdrawal. He says he does not remember taking the money out and does not have it. We believe he sent it to the scammers and that he either truly doesn’t remember it or is too embarrassed to admit to sending it.
He is still holding on to the checks he wrote. The last he told me was that he was only going to give them the checks if they showed up at his door.
We took his phone off the hook for a while, but the scammers resumed calling him when it was back online. He eventually unplugged all his phones to get them to stop calling. They would call every minute or so, repeatedly. He’s not very technical, so he wound up also killing his Internet and TV. He lived for a few days in a silent house.
We eventually changed his phone number and got him a new service. We are also in the process of taking over control of his finances to keep it safe, with his approval.
But there will always be more scammers. And that’s the scariest thing of all. Hopefully this story was scary enough to you that you’ll remember it and can educate the older people in your life to make sure they don’t get taken in. It really is just that easy to get scammed and fall for it.