(KMOV) -- Two Eureka residents were recently scammed out of thousands of dollars by suspects who claimed the men had won big cash prizes in sweepstakes contests. One of the victims eventually lost $5,000 and the other, an 80-year old man, was swindled out of $31,000.
These scams are nothing new but the boldness of these scammers is. At one point during the investigation the criminals learned that police were looking into their operations and had told the elderly victim the sweepstakes was a scam.
The arrogant thieves actually called the police, according to Eureka Police Lieutenant David Wilson, “And they went to the steps of even calling our department and speaking with the investigating officer, trying to convince the officer that this was a legitimate organization.”
Officers say the elderly victim was told by callers he’d won $595,000 in a sweepstakes conducted by a company called Global Winner International and $4.5 million dollars in a lottery run by a company called Mega Jack Millions.
In both cases he was instructed to send cashier’s checks and prepaid debit cards to cover the cost of taxes and fees. Police say the victim drained his bank account and took out a loan for $7,000 to cover the fees but that he’ll never see that money again because the criminals are operating outside the United States,
”This money is leaving the country and going overseas, we believe it’s possibly going to Jamaica,” said Lt. David Wilson.
News 4 contacted Daniel Rechtien, director of the fraud prevention task force at the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s office to ask why people continue to fall for these types of sweepstakes scams. He said, “People want to believe that somebody out there wants to give them some money, particularly if they’re in a desperate financial situation. A lot of times the victims are elderly.”
He said the elderly are favorite targets of scammers because they tend to be more trusting and often have a retirement nest egg that they have quick access to. He offers this advice if you get a call or a mailing that says you’ve won a sweepstakes, “nobody automatically enters you into a sweepstakes, if you don’t remember entering you cannot have won.”
He also said legitimate lotteries will take out state or local taxes before giving you your winnings but they will never ask you to take money out of your pocket and send it to them.
If you are a victim of fraud, or want to speak to the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Fraud Prevention Coordinator, you can call 314-612-1412.