OCALA, Fla. - An 80-year-old Ocala woman lost more than $200,000 in a sweepstake scam.
The Ocala Star-Banner reports the woman began receiving phone calls in 2012 telling her she had won thousands in a sweepstakes. But the callers told her she had to pay "taxes" on the earning before she could receive her prize.
The woman, who requested that her name not be used out of fear of being the victim of other scams, said she has received nothing in return.
"I've sent money through the bank and the post office, and I've never received one red cent," she told the Star-Banner.
Marion County Sheriff's Det. T. J. Watts noted in a report that the woman sent an $88,000 check to Honduras, $20,000 to Panama City and varying amounts to individuals in Jamaica.
The woman was reluctant to come forward at first because her children were upset with her for falling victim to the scam.
But Marion Sheriff's Capt. Jimmy Pogue says senior citizens are a target for this type of crime because many have accumulated a "nest egg" for retirement. They're often embarrassed to come forward when they finally realize they've fallen for a scam, he said. It's also sometimes difficult for them to remember details.
Deputies say they learned of another scam victim in April after bank officials notified them of unusual withdrawals being made by a 78-year-old woman who was in the bank waiting for her "winnings" to be deposited into her account.
She told deputies she had been contacted by "consumer affairs" officials from Washington who told her she had won millions of dollars in overseas lotteries. Between November 2012 and April, she sent more than $95,000 to a company that was "handling" the claim.
While the deputy was interviewing the woman, someone from "consumer affairs" called. The deputy answered and was told the woman owed more than $43,000 in unpaid fees. The man provided his name but wouldn't give his phone number or name of the business.
According to Pogue, the criminals involved in the sweepstakes scams are often located outside the United States, which makes it difficult for law enforcement to track them.
"The traditional form of contact is by phone or mail. With baby boomers becoming more compute savvy, the scams are also on the computer," Pogue said.
Pogue reminds people that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
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