An 89 year old Montevideo man became the latest victim of a phone scam.

An 89 year old Montevideo man became the latest victim of a phone scam. Due to his wish to remain anonymous, he will be referred to as “the victim.” It all started with a phone call in August.

The victim picked up the phone and a female told him that he won $500,000 cash from Publishers Clearing House and that he would then receive $7,000 a month.

“At that point, they asked me to send them money. I did, and I shouldn’t have,” said the victim.

The caller explained that, before the victim could get his money, court fees and filing fees would have to be paid.

The scam was well thought out, and the criminals had all their bases covered. “She gave me a confirmation of the conversation, a serial number, a special protection code, and private delivery information. She also gave me her badge number,” said the victim.

The female caller even gave the victim a list of the names of the people coming to deliver the prize, including a UPS driver and photographer. She said her organization was registered with the Bet­­ter Business Bureau. She also mentioned the name of her manager, a John Cooper.

The victim’s wife said, “it’s all very convincing if you don’t know what’s going on.”

The victim would eventually send nearly $30,000 to the scammers, who were persistent.

“This one gal would call every four hours to see if everything was all right,” said the victim’s wife.

Every time they would call, they would ask for more money. Finally, the victim had enough. “I told them I was not sending another nickel, and that I wanted my money,” he said.

The victim’s wife and daughter both talked to the scammers at certain times. The scammers were always friendly and polite, but as time passed and no prize money appeared at the door, they began to suspect the worst.

The situation came to a head when the local postmaster went to the victim’s home to tell him that he was being scammed. The police were called, and officer Ken Schule of the Montevideo P.D. took over the case.

Schule wasn’t surprised when he was contacted by the victim and his family. “We get reports basically every day about scams,” he said.

The investigation led Schule to Fargo as two of the victims checks were sent there. With the help of the Fargo police, Schule was able to locate and contact the recipient of the victim’s checks. Schule said, “We had no idea if this was a real person or just someone using a fake ID.”

It turned out the recipient in Fargo was an elderly woman who was also being conned by the same scammers as the victim in Montevideo. She herself lost $50,000 to the crooks.

The scammers convinced multiple victims to send checks to the lady in Fargo, who would then, in effect, launder the money by cashing the checks and  send the money further on down the line.

This makes tracing the money difficult, if not impossible. “The money is wired to Chicago, then to New York, then to Jamaica. Within two or three days, the money is gone,” said Schule. “Once the checks clear the bank, there is nothing that can be done to get the money back.”

The operation of such a complex scam requires a number of people to successfully pull it off. “Although we don’t know exactly where the money is going to, some of these operations are connected to organized crime,” Schule said.

Make no mistake, these scammers are bad people who purposely target the elderly. They know that elderly people typically have retirement money set aside. They also know that the elderly tend to be more trusting of strangers.

The scammers will seek out their victim’s personal information to use against them. Schule said: “These people are ruthless. They will get nasty and threaten to expose their victims to the IRS.”

As it currently stands, little can be done to stop the scammers as the scammers operate outside of the United States. Often, the calls originate from the 876 area code, which is located in Jamaica.

They  can also use their computers to make it look like a call is originating in the United States. Even a local prefix like Montevideo’s 269 can be used.

Ultimately, the victim and his family hope that sharing their experience will save others from going through what they have gone through.

“Beyond the money being taken, this creates a hardship for the victims,” said Schule. It is not uncommon for the elderly to lose most, if not all, of their money which was set aside for their retirement.

The best advice has always been, if it seems too good to be true, it usually is. Do not answer calls from numbers you do not recognize, and immediately call the police if you suspect a scam. Never send money to anyone promising money in return. Legitimate lotterys never ask for money to be sent to them. Never give out personal information.

There is a lot of information on scams connected with area code 876 on the internet. Simply Google the  876 area code to learn about the scams and what to do if you are contacted by scammers.

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