Ethel Waters is a kind woman who lives on a small retirement and gives more than her share to charities. She was also a target. Within the last two months, a series of sweepstakes scams promised her riches in return for sending people "fees" needed to start the process of giving her the multi-million dollar prizes.
She wrote checks or sent money through Western Union about ten times to people in three states and Jamaica. Yesterday, as we sat in the office of private investigator Michael Abernathy, I asked her the obvious question: "Why did you keep sending money?" Despite losing more than $16,000, her life savings, Ms. Waters looked me in the eyes and responded "those were different people."
Clearly, she was embarrassed, and it took courage to talk with us about it. By telling her story, Ms. Waters hopes she can help prevent another someone else from falling prey to the scam.
I tried repeatedly to contact the alleged scammers, but was not successful.
So, how can you protect yourself, or a loved one from these kind of scams? Private investigator Abernathy suggests closely monitoring the records of older relatives or close friends, especially if they seem vulnerable to this kind of fraud. Review their checking and savings accounts, see if they've made large purchases through a second mortgage, look at their monthly credit card and phone bills too.
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