Senior citizens in Iowa are being warned about a telephone scam. Jim Hegarty, president of the Better Business Bureau for the Omaha/Council Bluffs region, says this scheme involves a caller telling people they’ve won a big-money sweepstakes.
"They’ve been receiving calls from an individual telling them they had won the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes. In some cases, the seniors were told they won two-million dollars. Some were told they won 25-thousand dollars. In each case, they were told the needed to go to Western Union and wire an amount of money anywhere from $500 to $1,500."
That money is said to be a processing fee. Hegarty says the victims are told to call back at a designated number when the money has been sent to get further instructions. He says, "They would need to call back and get the details on when the prize would be delivered to their house. In each case, they were told that Ed McMahon would be accompanying them to deliver the prize to their home."
Hegarty says despite the warnings, at least one elderly woman in the Omaha-Council Bluffs area has fallen victim to this scam. He says, "The perpetrators were operating out of Jamaica and over a three-month period of time from the initial contact they made telling her that she had won the Publisher Clearing House Sweepstakes, she wire transferred in excess of 40-thousand dollars to these schemers in Jamaica." Hegarty says the scam artists are very smooth.
He says, "I called the number and talked to an individual in Jamaica and he told me that I had won 2.5-million dollars. They’re quite eloquent. We just want to warn people that there’s never a situation that you would be asked to wire money, send money, to collect a prize you may have won."
Hegarty says the scammers are hard to catch as they use stolen cell phones and have fake identification they use to collect these wire transfers at Western Union. He says be especially careful of Jamaican accents. If you have been contacted, call the BBB at 800-649-6814.