West Michigan Man Loses $72K in Sweepstakes Scam
An 84-year-old Kalamazoo man was recently taken for more than $70,000 in a sweepstakes scam.
Ugh! This makes me so angry and I feel so badly for this man who was tricked. People can be just awful.
Fox 17 reports that the man who was scammed did not want to talk on camera about it -- which I think is understandable! -- but his daughter spoke with them about what happened.
Kathy Chapman tells Fox 17 that her father, Rick, got a call a few months ago claiming that he'd won $2.5 million in the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes drawing, a new BMW, and some gold medallions.
Kathy says the scammers were very convincing, got her dad excited about his "winnings" and then told him "he needed to pay some taxes and fees before they could deliver his prize to him. Then just over the next few days, he was instructed exactly what to do, how to send the money, where to go.”
Rick Chapman was told to withdraw money from his different bank accounts and investments and deposit them in a new account he'd need to open and name a beneficiary account.
His withdrawals were eventually flagged by a credit union and weeks later, the family found out what happened.
Kathy says when she'd initially learned of her dad's withdrawals she was concerned for his safety,
I got really scared. I said, ‘There’s something terrible going on.’ And what was in my head was that there was somebody at his home with a gun to his head making him go out and taking out these large withdrawals and bring it back to them.”
Police got involved and the family was able to intervene.
Doctors have checked on Rick and he's said to be in good mental health.
Kathy says she's shocked this happened to her dad, who lives alone and is a recent widower,
“So honest his whole life, so hardworking, never looking for an easy way out, so for them to convince him that he needed to do this just floors me that he would believe this."
She tells Fox 17 hopes that by sharing his story, they can help others be on the lookout for scams.
We've seen an increase in all kinds of scams during the pandemic -- tax scams, airfare scams, utility scams, covid-related scams -- so sweepstakes scams are another to watch out for!
According to a recent study from the Better Business Bureau,
Sweepstakes and lottery scams resulted in higher financial losses during the COVID-19 pandemic compared to the previous three years, particularly for older people.
Here are the tips the BBB offers in spotting and dealing with sweepstakes scams:
How to tell fake sweepstakes and lottery offers from real ones:
- True lotteries or sweepstakes don’t ask for money. If someone wants money for taxes, themselves, or a third party, they are most likely crooks.
- You have to enter to win. To win a lottery, you must buy a lottery ticket. To win a sweepstakes or prize, you must have entered first. If you can’t remember doing so, that’s a red flag.
- Call the sweepstakes company directly to see if you won. Publishers Clearing House (PCH) does not call people in advance to tell them they’ve won. Report PCH imposters or check to see if you have actually won at 800-392-4190.
- Check to see if you won a lottery. Call the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries at 440-361-7962 or your local state lottery agency.
- Do an internet search of the company, name, or phone number of the person who contacted you.
- Law enforcement officials do not call and award prizes. Verify the identity of the caller and do not send money until you do.
- Talk to a trusted family member or your bank. They may be able to help.
If you think you have been a target of lottery/sweepstakes fraud, file a report with:
- BBB Scam Tracker, or contact your local BBB
- Federal Trade Commission (FTC), or call 877-FTC-Help
- U.S. Postal Inspection Service has experts to help with chronic sweepstakes scam victims and can be reached at 1-877-876-2455 or uspis.gov
- Senate Subcommittee on Aging Fraud hotline: 1-855-303-9470
- Western Union: 1-800-448-1492; file a complaint at westernunion.com
- MoneyGram: 1-800-926-9400; report a problem at moneygram.com
- Green Dot: 1-866-795-7597; contact greendot.com
- Canadian Anti Fraud Centre: toll free from the US at 1-888-495-8501
- Adult Protective Services: local help at elderjustice.gov for vulnerable or older adult victims
- Facebook: log reports of log reports of hacked or fake profiles