ON YOUR SIDE: Prize scam targets elderly - NBC12 - Richmond, VA News

ON YOUR SIDE: Prize scam targets elderly

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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

 An elderly widow at her most vulnerable received a phone call promising a big payday, but it was only crooks who made any money.

"I was kind of worried about my income, my finances, and how I was going to make it," said Louise Mueller. Mueller had just become a widow, her son was serving in Iraq, and she needed to return to work. Mueller, 84, admits she was emotionally overwhelmed. Then, she received a call.

"He said I won a sweepstakes," Mueller said. She says the man told her she needed to pay $2,500 in taxes in order to receive her $250,000 prize. So, she did.

No prize ever arrived. When they called again, she said, "I did keep saying to them, 'Where is my money, where is my money?' And they said, 'Well, I'll tell you what, we'll meet you at the bank.' I was at the bank. They were not."

Frank Schissler, U.S. Postal Inspector, said, "If you're receiving phone calls telling you need to send money in order to collect winnings, most likely you are being scammed."

"They kept calling and calling and calling. One time they called 17 times in 10 minutes," Mueller said. She eventually lost $20,000 and knows why she was vulnerable.

"I was sad, I was grieving, and I needed the money. So, I kind of fell for it," she said.
postal inspectors say con artists prey on the victim's emotions.

All consumers need to remember is this:

"No legitimate lottery or sweepstakes will ask you to send money, wire money or pay any kind of taxes, fees or other types of payment up front in order to collect your winnings," said Schissler.

Postal inspectors say about 30,000 ripoff calls are made from Jamaica into the United States every day. Most of those calls fail, but the crooks know they only need to catch one victim off guard to make money.

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