SWAMPSCOTT, Mass. — A dream of a lifetime seemed to have come true last week for an elderly Massachusetts man when he received a call from someone who claimed to represent Publisher's Clearing House.
The caller told the elderly Swampscott man he had just won $8.5 million plus a brand new Chevrolet in their national lottery. All he needed to do, the caller told him, was to pay the $45,000 taxes due on the money and the prize would be his.
It didn't occur to the man being scammed that the tax bill on $8.5 million would be closer to $3 million, than to a bargain $45,000.
So, following the caller's instructions, he headed to his local bank to have them transfer $45,000 to a distant city where, presumably, it would be credited to his account by the IRS.
Then, still giddy with excitement about his good fortune, he rushed to share the news with his daughter — who immediately recognized it as a scam.
Together, they rushed to the bank, where they were able to interrupt the transfer before it had been completed, and all $45,000 of the man's money was recovered.
Detectives are still working to identify the perpetrators of the scam before they attempt it more successfully somewhere else.
According to Sgt. Jonathan Locke, Swampscott police public information officer, this was not the first such con attempted in Swampscott over the last several months, and in most of them, the victim is unable to recover their loss.
He said big-money scams seem to proliferate in times of stress and uncertainty, and it would serve us all well to be alert for — and suspicious of — anything that seems too good to be true because, chances are, it isn't.
Some common scams seen by area police departments include:
- IRS scam: A person identifying themself as an IRS employee demands immediate payment for back taxes.
- Bail/accident scam: A caller tells you a family member, often a grandchild, is sick, injured or has been arrested and needs money.
- Sweepstakes: You are told you have won a contest, sweepstakes or a lottery and must pay taxes on your winnings before you receive them.
- Tech support scam: You get an email or an on-screen message saying your computer has a virus or has been hacked and they can repair it for a fee.
- Internet sale scam: You sell something via Internet and receive a check for more than the price. The buyer asks you to deposit the check and wire the overpayment back.
The cardinal rule to protect yourself from possible scams is this:
If someone you don't personally know asks you to withdraw money from the bank and to send, wire or transfer it to them by any means, stop and think:
"Is this a scam?"
It usually is.