(Bartlett, TN) In the last six months, Bartlett police have taken at least eight reports of callers swindling elderly people out of thousands of dollars.
Scroll to the bottom of the page for a list of tips to avoid similar scams.
In the worst case, 83-year-old Joe Sells lost $22,000.
He received several calls in February.
“He says congratulations. You have won 2 1/4 million dollars,” Sells said.
He was told to wire money to a person in Costa Rica. He did it, he said, because he continued to receive calls from other people claiming to be from different agencies verifying his winnings.
He even received a call from someone claiming to be from the U.S. Treasury Department.
“My checking account went down to nothing,” he said, after making several wire transfers within the span of a few weeks.
He lost the money he had saved for 37 years.
“I worked too hard for the money I’ve got,” he said. “You ever been hungry? That’s what it amount to.”
In a similar story, Donna Jenkins lost $1,800 and gave her social security number, bank account numbers and cell phone numbers to the caller.
When the caller kept asking for more, she told him she didn’t have it. But he convinced her the money was required to receive the winnings.
“I really, really hurt, when I took all my jewelry and pawned it,” she said. “70 years old, and here they have taken me for all this money.”
She said the caller kept pressuring her, sometimes getting angry, and sometimes using other tactics.
“One time he even started crying. He says you remind me so much of my grandmother,” she said.
When she felt like this was all a scam, she even told him, “Michael, you’re cheating me. You’re stealing right from me. Oh no, Donna, I wouldn’t do that.”
News Channel 3 called the number of the man bothering Jenkins. He called himself “Michael Ray,” and said that he worked for Mega Millions.
Ray said, “I just can’t get a hold of her, so I actually sent her package through the claims department. Alright? She has currently won her certified check, based on she has now been paying her utility bills on time.”
He continued to explain the prize she had won, saying it was the state lottery, but that he was calling from the New York office.
Natasha Chen: Where on the [Mega Millions] website does it say you receive phone calls for winnings?
Ray: I don’t even remember if she made a payment to my company before.
Chen: What is the name of your company?
Ray: If she already made a payment to my company, then I’m not the one she talked to before. The winner is international.
Ray’s number had an area code of 876.
The AARP has warned people to beware of calls from the 876 area code, often used by scammers outside the country.
If you receive a call like this, report it to the police and to the Federal Trade Commission.
Tips from the Better Business Bureau:
- Scam artists use the latest technology to peddle their wares so be wary of text messages, emails and phone calls from people you don’t know.
- Never send fees, taxes or other payments for some prize you supposedly won. Paying for a prize is always a scam.
- The only legal lotteries in the US are the official state-run lotteries. Foreign lotteries are illegal in the US.
- If you didn’t enter the sweepstakes or buy a lottery ticket, you aren’t the lucky winner.
- Never wire money to anyone you don’t know. ANYONE. Once you do, it hard to trace and even harder, if not impossible, to recover.