A 68-year-old Wichita woman reported to police that someone called telling her she had won a vehicle and TV but that she needed to pay a tax before she could claim the prizes.
The woman told police about the incident Tuesday shortly after she received the phone call from a man saying she had won a Publishing Clearinghouse Sweepstakes, said Lt. Clark Wiemeyer, head of Wichita police’s financial crimes unit. She was asked to pay a $150 tax by purchasing a wire money transfer, he added.
The woman hung up and called police, which Wiemeyer said was the right thing to do. Caller ID indicated the phone call came from Jamaica.
“It’s not uncommon for these calls to come from outside the country,” Wiemeyer said.
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He said he wasn’t aware of other scams fitting the exact description of the one given by the woman but that it did fit the pattern often used. That usually includes a request to electronically transfer money.
“You see a lot of these involving lottery winnings and inheritances,” he said. “You have to be careful. If you receive something from something that you didn’t enter but miraculously won, that should throw up red flags.
“People don’t just call up and offer you something for nothing. People aren’t giving away cars.”
Police haven’t seen an increase in the con games, but there has been a steady report of them, Wiemeyer said.
The scams frequently target elderly people.
“We call them grandparent scams,” Wiemeyer said. “I don’t know how these people know the ages. I wish I had that magic formula. There’s a lot of public information out there.”
Scammers are also using text messaging to get people to bite on their con game, he added.
Frequently the scammers will begin by asking for a lower fee, claiming it’s a tax, and then it evolves into more money for processing fees, Wiemeyer said.
“They just keep coming back for more and more money,” he said.