In case you're wondering whether people really fall victim to what might seem like obvious scams, you need look no further than the Central Massachusetts town of Holden, where a woman was taken for $400,000, police there said.
The victim is 80 years old and fell prey to the lottery scam - which takes advantage of the belief you might have won a contest you never entered. The elderly are often the ones who get taken by these types of scams.
These are often played out over email. But this woman was targeted by regular mail, along with many other victims across the country, police said. Federal investigators are looking into the case, police said.
Crooks count on the euphoria of a potentially big win for their victim to suspend disbelief. There's a lot of pressure to act quickly or risk losing a substantial sum of money. It almost always leads to the victim sending money in advance to cover taxes or some fee associated with transferring the made-up prize. Unfortunately, for those who are targeted, the first payment they make can often open the flood gates and leads to more and more pressure to send money.
In the worst cases, they'll even get targeted by someone who is claiming they can help them recover their money. The cycle continues until they've realized they've been scammed, which clearly doesn't always happen as quickly as you'd think, or someone else - usually a family member - sees signs of suspicious transactions.
Because scammers are most often in another country - whether somewhere in Africa, Eastern Europe or even Canada - the likelihood of recovering this lost money is practically nil.
Not every elderly parent is going to be receptive to giving their finances a regular look. But if you've got a relative who is prone to entering contests and shows signs of not being on top of their financial game, you owe it to them to keep a watchful eye.
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About the author
Mitch Lipka is one of America's leading consumer journalists and advocates. He is an expert in product safety, recalls, scams, and helping consumers get out of jams. He is a nationally known consumer columnist and runs TheConsumerChronicle.com. He lives in Worcester. You can find him on Facebook or reach him at ConsumerNews@Aol.com