My mom’s day started out badly when she hit a deer and totaled her only working vehicle. This is why she was sitting at home, waiting on the insurance company to call. She thought it was God’s answer to prayer, that she hit the deer for that very reason. The number on the caller ID was blocked and she had seen many missed calls from it recently. Mom felt fate had stepped in and put her at home so she could get this call, at last. My mom is an intelligent woman, she ran her own business for years, and she was, admittedly, a bit skeptical, however, the story that was given to her was so amazing, and offered so much hope, she was torn. In the end she called me and asked me to come over and give her a ride to the bank. I had no idea why, until I got to her house. This is the story she told me:
A man calling himself, “Clinton Wells” told her he worked for the Big 5, naming off Publisher’s Clearinghouse, Reader’s Digest, and others mom could not recall the names of. He said they were an independent company in charge of the sweepstakes for these Big 5. He said there was a story coming out on all the major news channels on Saturday morning at 6:00 AM that would tell about a computer glitch that caused prize winnings to be given out to the wrong people. He said there were four people who did not get the prize they had coming in 2008 and she was the last one they had yet to notify.
Mr. Wells verified mom’s address, she said he told her, she did not tell him. He asked for her middle initial and then he agreed with her that it was the correct one that he had on his paper. He then claimed the prize went to someone with the same name, and a different middle initial. Mr. Wells then went on to explain that this had to be kept a secret until after it came out on the news on Saturday morning. Apparently, the Big 5 wanted to get everyone paid before the story aired, so that the story would say they righted their wrongs. Mom had won 6th place, $375,000. (I doubt very much that any 6th place would ever be this much money)
Not only this, mom was to receive all the interest that she would have made on that money had she deposited it into an account in 2008. All she needs to do is agree not to sue the Big 5 for any hardships she has endured since that time, due to not having the money when she should have received it. On top of that, dad was to receive a $10,000 Walmart Gift Card for his loss in not having the money sooner, because the money was to have come to his address also.
Apparently, the number was blocked because of the 9-11 security procedures, they had a lot of money there. This part makes no sense to me because at one point he had also told my mother that he was in a nursing home waiting to die, and it was his job to track these people down. He also told her that he was a Christian. Mom talked to him a long time and even put him on with dad and made him go over it all with dad. At another point the man also said he was close to the yellow line between the USA and Canada and could walk across the street and be in Canada to buy a cup of coffee because coffee in Canada is better.
If you win money, you do not have to pay money up front before you receive the money. You may have to pay taxes on the money after you receive it, but there is never a fee to collect winnings. This man asked for $980.00 for “insurance” for her packet which would contain envelopes and instructions for picking up the winnings. If she could get the money to them by 5:00 PM she would have her packet within 24 hours, so even if she had to borrow the money, rest assured, she would only be borrowing it for 24 hours. The scammer originally requested a credit card number. Mom refused to provide that! (I told you she is smart!)
So the money was to be sent by Western Union to Ginette Lacroix. Mom was told this woman was a lawyer and that she would mark the bill paid by Publisher’s Clearinghouse for her services and mom would get the money refunded along with her winnings and they would even give her enough money to pay the taxes on her winnings. Ginette Lacroix’s address was Brokers Way, Windsor Ontario Canada. Mom was told to lie to the Western Union person and say she was sending money to a friend.
Mom told them she had no way to go anywhere because of her car being totaled (Now there is the blessing because if she had a way to go I would not have been able to tell her it was a scam) and that she did not have that kind of money. The man shuffled some papers around and made a show of asking someone for hardship paperwork. Within seconds mom was all signed up to get her packet for only $480.00. This is the point where she called me to take her to the bank.
After hearing all of this, I promptly picked up the phone and dialed 800 information and got the number for Publisher’s Clearinghouse. Mom was all worried because the man had told her over and over not to tell anyone and she was unsure if it would cost her the prize, or if they would even know about it. This man did a great job of selling his story, because, like I said before, my mom is very intelligent. She is a wonderful, loving woman. I cannot believe anyone could be so cruel as to do this to her. She thought her prayers had been answered. The hardships she has endured with the recent closing of a job that resulted in bounced paychecks had left her hurting financially and she needed this story to be true. She did not want me to call Publisher’s Clearinghouse, but in the end she said I could as long as I did not give them her name.
Apparently there are a lot of scams out there, because Publisher’s Clearinghouse had a prompt to push if you had received a call from someone claiming you won a prize. After informing my mom that she had not won anything and it was a scam she wanted me to call back again with it on speaker phone so she could hear it for herself. After this, she talked to Frank there, at PCH Scam Hotline. She had it on speakerphone so we could ask questions and Frank assured my mom that the ONLY way they ever contact a winner is with the prize patrol. No phone call, no email, no snail mail, just showing up with the van, the giant check and the camera crew. He assured mom that there was no computer glitch.
Mom looked like she wanted to cry. All she could think about was all the money she lost. I pointed out to her all the money she just saved by not sending them the money. It was hard for her to see this, so real had this story been to her. She did not want to let go. What this man did to her was so cruel, words cannot express it, but wait, there is more.
The scammer called to see if she had sent the money yet. Mom told him that she had no way to go anywhere, reminded him she had totaled her car that morning hitting a deer, and she could not borrow $480.00 from anyone because nobody had it. The scammer then offered her the low price of only $280.00, He informed her that they would have to take $500.00 from her winnings as a penalty. Mom told him she did not have any money. This is when the scammer told her she could get a title loan on her vehicle and repay the loan within 24 hours.
Mom told them she would have to pass, she just had no way to get to the bank or anywhere right now and she could not borrow the money from anyone. The scammers had no idea that they were on speaker phone and I was sitting right there listening to it all. If this ever comes to court, I will gladly testify to put these scumbags behind bars. I kept picturing the poor people who actually fell for it and sent the money, and my heart and prayers went out to them. The scammers took turns talking to mom. They had a slight New York accent. Very polished sounding. A voice that would be great on radio finally asked her if she was sure and offered to give her two more days to come up with the money. Mom said no, that she was giving up and letting her prize go.
We visited awhile while I tried to get phone numbers for the news agencies to let them know about this. My concern was to prevent this from happening to anyone else. I wanted to get the word out, and get it out fast. Unfortunately, CBS News, NBC News, ABC News and FOX News were all unlisted on the 800 directory. Mom did not have Internet so I said I would do my best to get the story out once I got home. (This is what I am doing now – hopefully you searched out something these men said and found my story and saved yourself a lot of money).
After quite some time had passed, the scammers called again. They offered her the packet with her winnings for $190.00, calling it the Friends and Family Discount. Mom again declined and they again asked her if she wanted a few more days. She again told them no. My dad was boiling mad. My mom was bitterly disappointed. Someone said we should inform the police. I was skeptical that they could do anything but agreed to make the call. I got passed from one number to another until I finally reached a policeman in charge of scams.
The officer basically said there was nothing they could do, she had not actually lost any money and that was a good thing. There was no interest in calling the phone company and finding out the number the call came from or anything. I asked the police officer if he would at least get the story out there to the news so that others would not fall for the scam. He told me that he would see to it that it got mentioned in a newspaper. It did not sound very likely that the word was going to go very far. I again stressed to the policeman my concern for all the elderly who would lose their life savings thinking they would have it back in 24 hours and that they may even put a loan out on their vehicle to do this. The police officer’s response was, “Tis the season”.
Update: They have continued calling, saying they sent it and it’s in customs and so forth. Mom never told them she knows they are a scam. She figures the more she wastes their time talking to her the less time they can spend scamming others. I was able to reach Western Union and inform them of the situation and they have put a stop on all payments to that person at that address. (Even if the person says they are sending money to a friend). We have to protect people from losing all their money or putting out a loan on their vehicle to pay for something they are not going to get. Have a Merry Christmas everyone, mine will be merrier knowing I have probably helped at least one person by publishing this article.