BERLIN — Law enforcement officials this week are warning residents about a telephone scam that convinced an unsuspecting local elderly woman that she had won $2.5 million in a sweepstakes before bilking her out of $40,000 in increments to collect the winnings.
In October, an elderly victim who wishes to remain anonymous was contacted by telephone by a person claiming to be from the American Sweepstakes Network. The caller told the victim she had won $2.5 million. The victim had not entered any contest and was surprised to learn she had won.
The suspect advised the victim to send $4,500 to ensure the winning check would be sent to her residence. The next day, the scammer called the victim again and asked her to get a “Moneypak” card with $1,000 on it. She then read to him the numbers on the back of the card, giving him access to the money. This process continued from October to this Monday, Jan. 14, each time with the suspect claiming he was with the American Sweepstakes Network.
The suspect would provide delays and reasons why the $2.5 million had not been delivered. Each time, the suspect would have the victim wire money or purchase “Moneypak” cards providing access to the victim’s accounts. Throughout the scam, the victim lost a total of $40,000. By then, she accepted the fact she was probably never going to see the sweepstakes prize.
The victim then requested the suspects return all of the money she had provided them. The suspects agreed, but requested she send them another $1,000 to ensure that they would send the money. When she refused to send the suspects any more money, they began to threaten the victim and told them they would have the U.S. Marshalls and Homeland Security lock her up.
At that point, on Monday, she called law enforcement to report the scam. The Worcester County Bureau of Investigation (WCBI) was contacted on Monday and asked to assist in the investigation. In a prepared statement on the case, WCBI officials are warning area residents not to provide personal information over the phone or computer to someone they don’t know.
“If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is,” the WCBI statement reads. “If someone calls you and advises you that you won a sweepstakes, this should be a warning that someone is about to scam you. Never wire any money or provide any account information to someone claiming that any amount is needed before obtaining your sweepstakes.”