Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

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March 22, 2014

Jacksonville man clicks to fake lotto call

JACKSONVILLE — When Jacksonville resident Elroy Hinton picked up the phone, an anonymous caller informed him that he had won a Texas Mega Millions lottery jackpot for more than $5 million.

However, when the caller became “really pushy about it,” insisting the 78-year-old needed to send him $350 to cover a processing fee, Hinton immediately suspected a scam in the making.

“I just kind of listened to him for a while, he was trying to get my trust,” he said. “I told him 'You have an advantage on me because you call my number, you have my name.' And he said, 'You can trust me.'

“I told him, 'Why don't you send me the money and I'll send you $350 and that would be my trust,'” he recalled.

While quick-thinking prevented the scam artist from getting any of Hinton's money, unscrupulous individuals target senior citizens by engaging their trust and stealing their money.

In fact, according to a 2010 survey by Investor Protection Trust, more than 7.3 million senior citizens – roughly 20 percent of Americans aged 65 or older – had “been taken advantage of financially in terms of an inappropriate investment, unreasonably high fees for financial services, or outright fraud,” according to the Better Business Bureau website.

Calls like that received by Hinton “tend to be very common – we see it happening when people get called and someone claims they've won a sum of money, but they have to pay back” some of it, said Kaylen Burgess, communications assistant for the BBB Serving Central East Texas.

“We advise that when you get a call saying that you won money, use caution and do your homework. If you've never entered that contest or haven't purchased a ticket, you know that you're not going to receive something from it,” she pointed out.

“Another red flag is that when you do win (a lottery prize), taxes are taken out of that prize money through taxes.”

In fact, aarp.org confirmed that when winning a legitimate contest, “a portion of your jackpot may immediately be withheld for federal and state taxes, and you're responsible to pay any balance when filing that year's (federal and state) taxes.”

Also, Burgess pointed out, “you never have to wire money if you've won money. Wiring money is untraceable, and once you send it to that person, you can't really trace it very well, especially if they have a fake ID. That's why they use that method.”

Jacksonville Police Sgt. Daniel Franklin said that while he does not know how many such calls as Hinton's come through his department, it's not surprising to hear that people are peppered with calls from scam artists.

“These things happen constantly,” he said. “There's not really a time of year or special event that sparks this, either. I don't know how (con artists) get hold of people, or how they choose a number, but luckily (Hinton) knew this was a scam.”

And while it's “really almost impossible to catch these things because there are so many different channels” a con artist can use – email, letters, phone calls – “people realize that it is a scam, that they definitely don't need to send whatever that person is asking for,” he said.

“Just be aware that they're out there, because unfortunately, scam artists are coming up with something new every day.”

“Typically, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” Burgess added.

That's what Hinton quickly figured out during his recent conversation with man, who claimed he was calling from New Jersey, but Hinton's caller ID screen read “Jamaica.”

“When I mentioned the BBB, he said don't do it, I don't like to deal with them,” he recalled. “He said not to tell anyone (about the call) because it was dangerous for me because of that amount of money I had 'won.'”

The caller “made it sound good, but he kept trying to get me to trust him. But I didn't go for it, and that didn't go over well with him,” Hinton said.

Burgess advised those on the receiving end of such calls – or emails or letters – to contact the BBB, which works with other bureaus throughout the country to spread the word and educate people so they aren't taken advantage of.

“We try to share information not only to educate our own community, but any community the BBB services,” she said.

Hinton's advice?

“Just hang up. That's about the best thing, because if someone can offer that kind of money, you know they can take care of the taxes and other expenses,”

he said.

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