OCEAN PINES — A 96-year-old Ocean Pines resident has been bilked out of $40,000 in an Internet sweepstakes scam, but authorities at least have some leads in what are typically long-shot cases.
Ocean Pines Police Chief David Massey this week said the elderly resident of the community had fallen prey to an Internet scam that has unfortunately become all too common. The victim was notified he had won nearly a million dollars in a contest, but needed to transfer money to the scammer in order to collect.
“They told him he had won $950,000 in a sweepstakes and they needed him to send them money to complete the transaction,” said Massey this week. “They asked him to send the money via wire, which is pretty typical for these kinds of scams.”
Massey said the unfortunate victim had fallen prey to a common scam that has popped up in the area in various incarnations in recent years, but what is rather unusual in this case is the large amount. The victim sent via wire two transactions totaling $20,000 each to the unidentified scammers.
“Anytime someone asks you to send money via wire, you can assume it’s a scam,” he said. “The same goes for Internet transactions and most transactions over the phone.”
In addition, Massey said most legitimate transactions would not be conducted over the phone or the Internet, and warned area residents to never engage in a transaction they did not initiate themselves.
“If someone initiates a transaction, it’s probably a scam,” he said. “If a caller initiates a transaction over the phone, that’s also probably a scam. Once again, this crime points out the ‘something for nothing’ philosophy that criminals use to entice victims into giving into their scams. The only Internet and telephone transactions that are secure are those initiated by the resident to a secure, legitimate website.”
Typically, in these cases, the scammer are from out of the country and tracking and charging them is akin to finding a needle in a haystack. In this particular case, however, the scam originated domestically, giving the Ocean Pines Police and their partners hope the perpetrators could be located.
“Most of these scammers live overseas and are beyond the range of prosecution,” he said. “In this case, we’ve been able to determine the suspects live in the United States and we got some information that might let us pursue them.”
Massey said it still could be a long shot, but he remains hopeful the information will lead to the identification and arrest of the suspect or suspects.
“We’re following leads and working with some other law enforcement agencies to help track the suspects,” he said. “I would love to make an arrest in this case and bring the suspects back here to face our judges. If someone called in here and said we got your guys, we would be ecstatic.”