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Lottery scams dupe thousands

Scam AlertScam Alert: Lottery scams dupe thousands
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South Carolina couple's savings disappear; phone rings off hook

Dick Long fought in the Philippines under MacArthur.

Lillie Long taught first-graders for nearly three decades.

Now, every time they go to the mailbox and just about every time they pick up the phone, they're being scammed.

The Longs are lured by promises that seem so convincing and so easy to reach: Just send a few dollars and you will win millions in foreign lotteries and sweepstakes.

Hopeful, they send the money.

They have never received a dime.

They never will.

The couple, both well into their 80s, think they have mailed and wired money to win big prizes for more than two years.

Their six-figure banking account — large enough that tellers would remind Lillie that she had too much to be insured — has dwindled to $7,358.

The Longs are among roughly 40,000 people nationwide tricked each year by lottery crooks. The actual number is likely much higher, consumer advocates say, because so many cases go unreported.

Scams baited with foreign lottery and sweepstake winnings are decades old. But after years of declines, the number of complaints to law enforcement agencies nationwide is rising at an alarming rate.

In South Carolina, the number more than doubled last year, according to federal data.

Some experts cite the economy for the boom in sweepstakes scams, saying people are easier to sway when money is tight. Others note that scams tend to come in waves — and it's the lottery's turn to be used as one.

Dick and Lillie are the kind of folks lottery and sweepstakes organizers like to target.

The elderly couple doesn't have children, and nearby relatives visit just occasionally. Plus, Dick, who started entering the contests, says he has an onset of dementia that can make him a little confused at times.

"That's the perfect scenario for scammers," said Tom Bartholomy, a fraud expert who runs the Better Business Bureau in the Charlotte region.

Lillie said she continues to play because, "I wanted to help him so much."

'He sounds honest'

The more people pay to win the sweepstakes, the more pitches they get, experts say.

At the house where the Longs have lived all 58 years of their marriage, a day's mail has more than 15 official-looking letters promising large cash prizes. The letters ask Dick and Lillie to send a check for fees or taxes.

This month, they have mailed more than 150 checks. Most were for less than $30, but they totaled more than $3,000.

Their phone rarely stops ringing. So-called lottery officials call within minutes of each other with instructions to claim bundles of cash. They have answers to soothe any questions or doubts.

A call led Lillie to wire $100 Wednesday to Jamaica. The caller, who told them the Longs that they had won a $2.5 million prize, told her at first to wire $500 for fees but brought the price down when she balked.

"What did we have to lose?" Lillie said. "All we needed to send was $100. Maybe this was the one."

Once they get one payment, the scammers call again seeking more money. They seem believable.

Take what happened around lunchtime Wednesday.

A man calling from New York identifies himself as Sam Cole, an agent for the Federal Trade Commission, as a reporter listens in.

He says that he needs to make sure Lillie sends fees so she can receive a $450,000 Costa Rican sweepstakes prize.

He had persuaded Lillie to wire the $4,500 for taxes last Monday. Now, she must wire $3,600 for excise fees to get the check released from customs, he insists.

"I got you a special, government-approved 24-hour extension," Sam assures Lillie. "I know you're a great person."

Lillie wavers. Sam becomes more aggressive.

"You need to get this done, or you will throw away this opportunity of a lifetime. To win a contest like this is very, very rare. ... Don't throw this money away."

Lillie is still unsure. Sam says he understands she's scared. He spells his name and gives his license number, LL1705, and suggests Lillie call the FTC to see that he's for real. Then Sam gives her a toll-free number to call for the agency and asks her to call back.

Lillie reaches what Sam says is the FTC, and she gives the license number. After a short moment, she's told it belongs to Sam Cole, a senior director at the Sweepstakes Distribution Center.

"This is the agency we established to monitor all lotteries and sweepstakes," the purported FTC man tells her.

Then without being asked, he adds that Sam has worked with the FTC for 13 years.

Sam doesn't wait for Lillie to call back. Less than 15 minutes later, a New York number pops up on the Longs' phone.

Sam says he already has given out 17 of the 25 prizes won that day. He again tells Lillie he understands she might be scared, but she's causing problems by delaying the payment.

"I will have to reschedule everything today," Sam insists. "I had to cancel the flights yesterday."

Sam promises he will send the $450,000 the next day — after he gets the $3,600.

Even with all her doubts and all her questions, Lillie's first reaction after the call is: "He sounds honest, Dick. He is telling the truth. Seems like we're getting the money."

Then she reveals she's already taken $3,600 out of the bank to wire to New York.

'You're a winner'

While she and Dick talk about what to do, a call comes for Dick, a retired pharmaceutical salesman. The area code is from Las Vegas, and the man identifies himself as John Miller from the International Prize Claims Department.

In a monotone voice, John tells Dick, "Congratulations, you are this month's winner" and he's won $4.5 million. All Dick needs to do is wire a $250 delivery fee.

After he sends the money, John says, someone from the prize department will come to Dick's home to take him to the bank to deposit the millions.

Does John get anything from this, Dick asks. "I get nothing, my friend. I'm just doing my job," John replies.

As the conversation ends, John offers one last piece of reassurance to Dick.

"I know you have been playing the sweepstakes games for some time, and now you're a winner."

The lottery officials were not so chatty when a reporter called to ask them to explain their operations.

Voicemails left for John Miller and Sam Cole were not returned.

A call to another number Sam gave the Longs was answered at separate times as "Sweepstakes Commission" and "Sweepstakes Distribution." Both times, men answering the phone hung up soon after a reporter started asking questions.

A call to the toll-free number given to the Longs for the Federal Trade Commission was answered by a man who refused to identify himself or say where he was located. But he said he worked at the federal agency overseeing lotteries and sweepstakes.

When told the actual FTC said his phone number did not belong to the government, the man asked for the number the reporter had called. The man was given the phone number for the commission's press office in Washington.

"We get a lot of complaints about that number," the man said.

Was his office running a lottery scam? "No, we don't," he replied. "We help people get their money."

When asked for a list of winners, the man hung up.

After being told the foreign lotteries and sweepstakes they paid for were fraudulent, Dick and Lillie said last week they had stopped sending checks and now only answer the phone if they know the caller.

The Longs could go to the authorities and consumer protection agencies for help, but capturing scamming criminals is "hard to do," said Brandolyn Pinkston, administrator for the S.C. Department of Consumer Affairs. "These people are very sophisticated. They will just switch targets and switch their scams."

Dick just had one thought as he considered what has happened to him and Lilly: "It's sad, really."

News story photo(Click to display full-size in gallery)

News story photo(Click to display full-size in gallery)

News story photo(Click to display full-size in gallery)

News story photo(Click to display full-size in gallery)

News story photo(Click to display full-size in gallery)

Thanks to JAP69 for the tip.

The State

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21 comments. Last comment 6 years ago by dingo.
Page 1 of 2
Avatar
Monkey Butt, USA
United States
Member #54569
August 23, 2007
1124 Posts
Offline
Posted: September 27, 2010, 10:26 am - IP Logged

Attention all LP members, if you have elderly relatives or mentally disabled relatives, please be on the lookout for them. Don't allow this to happen to your loved one. This is a sad story that happens all day every day to thousands of people. Do what you can to protect your loved ones. The government and police will only do so much and you already know there will be no justice done on behalf of your victimized loved one.

Let us learn from this horrible-horrible story and start thinking of ways to protect the financial resources of our loved ones.

    Avatar
    CT
    United States
    Member #62299
    June 23, 2008
    53 Posts
    Offline
    Posted: September 27, 2010, 10:51 am - IP Logged

    Whenever these scammers say we just need a small fee to cover the taxes, paperwork, etc.  you should know it's a scam.  I would just say to the scammers instead of me sending you money, just just subtract the fees, taxes, etc. from my prize, then send me a check.  Then, I would expect them to hang up, quickly.

      konane's avatar - wallace
      Atlanta, GA
      United States
      Member #1265
      March 13, 2003
      3333 Posts
      Offline
      Posted: September 27, 2010, 11:24 am - IP Logged

      Attention all LP members, if you have elderly relatives or mentally disabled relatives, please be on the lookout for them. Don't allow this to happen to your loved one. This is a sad story that happens all day every day to thousands of people. Do what you can to protect your loved ones. The government and police will only do so much and you already know there will be no justice done on behalf of your victimized loved one.

      Let us learn from this horrible-horrible story and start thinking of ways to protect the financial resources of our loved ones.

      I Agree!I Agree!I Agree!I Agree!I Agree!I Agree! 

      First clue is if you haven't specifically entered a lottery or contest .... how can you be so special as to be singled out as a winner??? 

      Legitimate sponsor contests and sweepstakes always state up front FREE entry, FREE postage or freight delivery of prize to your residence.

      Good luck to everyone!

        Avatar
        Sacramento, CA
        United States
        Member #96354
        August 28, 2010
        159 Posts
        Offline
        Posted: September 27, 2010, 11:37 am - IP Logged

        Why fall for foreign lottery scams? The domestic varieties are big enough scams anyway.

          Avatar
          Sacramento, CA
          United States
          Member #96354
          August 28, 2010
          159 Posts
          Offline
          Posted: September 27, 2010, 11:48 am - IP Logged

          Konane, we don't vote in sufficient numbers to relieve our regime of their powers. Illegal aliens, dead people, dogs, cats and hamsters vote these people into office, not counting those dependent constituencies they cultivate with government jobs, hand-outs, Affirmative Action policies and other Big Brother programs. I'm afraid anyone who gains high office these days is well aware that they must 'play the game' in order to sustain their lofty posts. Remember this phrase: "Tweedle 'D' and Tweedle 'R'". That pretty much sums it up.

            Avatar
            Sunny California
            United States
            Member #40295
            May 31, 2006
            7712 Posts
            Offline
            Posted: September 27, 2010, 11:49 am - IP Logged

            150 checks in one month? Never seen a dime back? It boggles the mind that people would continue sending money for these scams. Dementia? Sounds more like greed. If they had a 6 figure bank account to start with it doesn't sound like they really needed the money in the first place. Or am I missing something in this story? Folks, find something better to do with your time. Volunteer!  

              Avatar
              Monkey Butt, USA
              United States
              Member #54569
              August 23, 2007
              1124 Posts
              Offline
              Posted: September 27, 2010, 11:59 am - IP Logged

              Whenever these scammers say we just need a small fee to cover the taxes, paperwork, etc.  you should know it's a scam.  I would just say to the scammers instead of me sending you money, just just subtract the fees, taxes, etc. from my prize, then send me a check.  Then, I would expect them to hang up, quickly.

              Please keep in mind that the target demographic is the elderly not those of us who are still cynical enough to catch on and hang up. After working with the elderly for many years I've come to notice that the elderly are very trusting and gullible. These are educated people who trust what you say because they have no reason to distrust you.

              EX: If I was to betray Mrs. Jones trust, she will be distrustful of me from then on. But if you came along right behind me and did the same thing Mrs. Jones would take you at your word and have the same thing or almost the same thing happen to her again.

              When it comes to trust, dealing with the elderly is like dealing with young children. They will trust you to all ends of the earth. That's why so many elderly people are getting ripped off everyday not just by these scum buckets but by their personal providers and family members.

              Greed has no boundries. Sad but true. I remember a saying when I was a kid, "Once an adult, twice a child." never understood it until I started working with the elderly.

                Avatar
                Sunny California
                United States
                Member #40295
                May 31, 2006
                7712 Posts
                Offline
                Posted: September 27, 2010, 12:09 pm - IP Logged

                That is a great line,Perdue...."Once an adult,twice a child." And how so very true. I adore the "elderly",and it is so unfortunate that they are preyed upon like this. God Bless them. I can't help thinking that if these people had children they wouldn't have been so easy to scam,a child would have stepped in and stopped it. Or even a friend perhaps. They must be very alone. When older people are on their own with no "supervision" so to speak these are the kind of things that can happen. Do you know what your elderly mother and father are up to? Call today and ask.     

                  Avatar
                  New Jersey
                  United States
                  Member #77101
                  July 13, 2009
                  7805 Posts
                  Offline
                  Posted: September 27, 2010, 12:48 pm - IP Logged

                  Such a sad story.  Can't help wonder what will happen once their bank account has a zero balance.No Nod

                    stephi's avatar - winifrid
                    rural lowcountry, south carolina
                    United States
                    Member #31677
                    February 2, 2006
                    196 Posts
                    Offline
                    Posted: September 27, 2010, 9:14 pm - IP Logged

                    Your mind stays on Lord Jesus Christ; you have a sound mind and the spirit of discernment. You don't; your free game for all the devils. And it doesn't hurt for you to be greedy too. Dementia is selective dementia. I've seen it time & again with senior citizens.

                      beverette's avatar - 2rzqm87
                      Tarboro,NC
                      United States
                      Member #93419
                      June 29, 2010
                      64 Posts
                      Offline
                      Posted: September 27, 2010, 9:19 pm - IP Logged

                      tell them to take the money you owe them out of the money you won then mail it!

                        Avatar

                        Honduras
                        Member #20982
                        August 29, 2005
                        4715 Posts
                        Offline
                        Posted: September 27, 2010, 11:16 pm - IP Logged

                        guy i apologize, but is the guy´s name...people are making PR around names like that...dont know how come nobody picked it up...the best is for them to change their names...

                        sometimes people could make codes out of names like that or a spider´s web/ring out of names like that...

                        sometimes is hackers bragging about it...millions is a code word....

                        i rather people use childrens who have those names than senile adults....give the kid some candy or a couple of bucks instead of having grown adults in that nonensense....

                        imagine someone with the last name: Bullets...they will make so much PR around him...

                        millions sometimes could reffer to a big house paid for already...For if you won a house all you will need to do is work to amass millions, millions could also be a stock that will always be hot or the lottery winning numbers or something, a ship, ect...it doesnt have to be real cash....

                        The Forex trades: 1.6 Trillion dollars EVERY day, that´s more than the GDP of the Carribbean Central America, COMBINED. Enough to feed every crook out there for centuries...To all Geniuses & Powers Countries of the World the Planet needs breakthroughs in all Medicine, Veterinary, Biology related fields, Psychology, Population Psychology/Sociology..They need to genetically ingeneer new plants species/types to give more variety of plants and thus have more resources for combating diseases¨


                         


                         


                         

                         


                          Avatar

                          Honduras
                          Member #20982
                          August 29, 2005
                          4715 Posts
                          Offline
                          Posted: September 27, 2010, 11:38 pm - IP Logged

                          there are people out there too with extreme sense of humor....milliions could be the cure to a disease/ailment, ect it doesnt have to be real cash...

                          is also a way of people saying: I GOT A HIGHER I.Q THAN YOU or can remember things more for if you had a supermemory you will have a higher I.Q you will not need to go to school....

                          The Forex trades: 1.6 Trillion dollars EVERY day, that´s more than the GDP of the Carribbean Central America, COMBINED. Enough to feed every crook out there for centuries...To all Geniuses & Powers Countries of the World the Planet needs breakthroughs in all Medicine, Veterinary, Biology related fields, Psychology, Population Psychology/Sociology..They need to genetically ingeneer new plants species/types to give more variety of plants and thus have more resources for combating diseases¨


                           


                           


                           

                           


                            rdgrnr's avatar - walt
                            Way back up in them dadgum hills, son!
                            United States
                            Member #73904
                            April 28, 2009
                            14903 Posts
                            Offline
                            Posted: September 28, 2010, 12:16 am - IP Logged

                            I'd like to knock nine kinds of hell out of the lowlifes that take advantage of nice old people like that.

                            Especially when it's a World War II Veteran.


                                                                         
                                                 
                                                                     

                             

                             

                             

                             

                                                                                                                               

                            "The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing"

                                                                                                                        --Edmund Burke