The Cornelius Police Department has recently received numerous reports of phone scams targeting senior citizens in the area. This is a common issue across the country with victims losing millions of dollars to fraudulent international lottery scams. Victims of the scam received a phone call stating that they had won money in a sweepstakes or lottery. Victims were instructed to send thousands of dollars for fees or other expenses in order to receive their lottery winnings.
Here are a few signs that you have been targeted by phone scam:
- You get a phone call from a stranger telling you that you have won the lottery and you have to pay fees or taxes before receiving the prize. The scammer asks you to send funds via a Green Dot Card or wire the money through Western Union or MoneyGram to Jamaica or sometimes to an accomplice at a U.S. address. The scammer also states to not share this information with any family members or the police.
- If you do not send funds, the scammer may appear to become angry and make threats, such as reporting you to the IRS, police, or causing you or your family bodily harm.
- If you have sent money, the caller will tell you reasons about why you urgently need to send more money and suggest creative ways you can obtain it, including selling property and taking out loans, which will all come back when you receive your winnings.
- Scammers may later pose as lawyers or government officials claiming you have to pay their services to help with your case or protect you from being subject to criminal prosecution.
What can you do to avoid being scammed and help to stop the scam?
- DO NOT send any money via Western Union, MoneyGram, or other money transfer services or share personal bank information.
- Hang up and stop all communication with the scammers. If the scammer calls again, tell him or her not to call anymore. If they are persistent, say you will report the calls to the authorities and hang up. You can also try to block their calls.
- If you receive a suspicious check, it will probably be fraudulent, and your bank may be able to tell you this. In any case, DO NOT cash it or pay any money out. The bank will discover the fraud and you will not only be out the money but could also be charged additional fees.
- DO NOT believe any threats to harm you or your family since the scammers are most likely in another country.
- Contact local law enforcement officials or the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP.
If you have relatives or neighbors that are senior citizens, talk with them about the fraudulent international lottery and other phone scams.