91-year-old woman loses $250,000 in Publishers Clearing House scam

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For two hours one afternoon in early April, a mother and father drove around Charlotte, North Carolina, listening to every demand of their son’s supposed kidnapper on the phone. “If you call the police, I will know and kill him,” he threatened, according to the Bakers. “I have a scanner.”

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BEL-NOR, Mo. — Missouri resident Barb Fish said her 91-year-old mother-in-law was swindled out of a huge chunk her of life savings when she fell victim to a scam.

Fish said it all started with a phone call. Her mother-in-law thought she won $4 million.

“He got her to trust him, she told him her life story,” Fish said.

Fish said her mother-in-law thought she was paying taxes to claim her prize. From November through February, she wrote check after check. Fish said her mother-in-law sent the scammers nearly $250,000 to claim the prize she thought she won.

“Devastated, she is now that she knows isn’t for real, she is devastated,” said Fish.

In some cases, Fish said her mother-in-law withdrew cash and mailed it off and wishes the bank would have stopped her.

Publishers Clearing House recognizes the problem of scams and even mentions them on their website. They warn customers not to send any money to pre-pay taxes and they will only notify winners of a prize via mail or in person, never on the phone.

Fish said when she and her husband figured out what was going on, they had the calls forwarded to their cell phone. Fish said her husband told the scammer to stop and the conversation got personal.

“[My husband said] ‘You have done enough damage stop calling.’ [The scammer] said, ‘Go sit by your daughter’s grave and cry about it.’ So he knew we had lost a daughter,” said Fish.

Fish said it is important for everyone to watch elderly family members’ finances closely, even if its too late for them.

Fish also said she called the FBI. The money and checks were mailed to multiple addresses all over the country. Many of the calls originated from an 876 area code, which is Jamaica.

Experts told News 4 not to answer a call from an 876 area code if you don’t recognize the number.

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