Elderly Conway Woman Scammed for $30K in "Mega Millions" Sweepstakes

Elderly Conway Woman Scammed for $30K in "Mega Millions" Sweepstakes

Scam costs her $30,000 dollars. Now, she's warning others and is still worried shysters will show up at her door.
"Sure I'm scared of them," she said, wringing her hands on the top of her walking cane.

This woman, who we'll call Tonya, asked us not to show her face.

"Good grief, they're criminals and you're exposed to them," she said.

She's afraid scammers who keep calling her phone after robbing her of $30,000 will end up at her front door.

"They call every day and tell me they're going to show up," she said. "They'll say they will show up at such and such time. Then they call back and say it will be later, or tomorrow. I just don't know."

"They don't care how old or crippled you are. They just want your money," she added.

At 73 years old, she never dreamed she would be swayed by a shyster.

"I thought I would be the last person to get caught up as careful as I am with my money," she said. "But I got the letter and they said it was randomly drawn based on my address. That seemed more legitimate to me."

She received a letter bearing what appeared to be a legitimate Mega Millions lottery logo. And so, she believed her name had been drawn in a national sweepstake, making her a millionaire and the owner of a Mercedes Benz -- only it hadn't, and Mega Millions had nothing to do with it.

"I was just so ignorant to how all of this worked," she said, flipping through a stack of MoneyPak cards. "Like this one is for $700 dollars, and they just asked me for the number on the back. But once they have that number, and I gave it to them over the phone, the money's just gone. No way to get it back."

The scam required her to purchase money cards from Walgreens and Walmart, providing the codes to "claim representatives". Before she knew it, she'd spent thousands of dollars, feeling like she had nowhere to turn.

"Yes, Lord. I prayed," she said. "And I said, Lord why is this happening to me? But I guess the Lord had an answer for me."

Her guardian angel turned out to be a bank teller, questioning the large cash withdrawals from her account.

"She asked me why I was withdrawing so much money, and I showed her the letter," Tonya said. "She said, yes this has scam written all over it. She told me they wouldn't allow me to withdraw more money from my account and offered to take me to the police."

"This is not the first time they've done this, and it won't be the last," said Conway Police Public Information Officer LaTresha Woodruff.

Conway detectives are working to track down these professional pretenders, but in all likelihood they won't be caught. That's why police encourage people to resist giving in to the ruse.

The number one rule: a sweepstakes prize does not require a down payment.

"You don't send money because you won some money," said Woodruff. "We tell people this all the time. But when you get a letter saying you could win more than $9 million, it overshadows our better judgment. But people just don't need to do it. If they're asking you to pay money to get money you've won, don't do it, it's a scam."

Because this scam associates itself with a legitimate lottery, Woodruff said it is possible more people will fall for it.

"I think it does give people that sense of legitimacy, seeing that logo on there," she said. "But the thing is, any legitimate lottery or business can be hijacked and used by these scams."

So, some other rules of thumb to live by when it comes to spotting scams:

1. If it's unsolicited, it's probably a scam. If you haven't entered a sweepstakes or purchased a product, that's a first red flag.

2. Typos in communication. Check any letters or correspondence you receive. Legitimate companies have someone on the payroll to spell check communications before they're sent out to consumers.

3. Payment up front. If the company asks you to send money for any sort of prize they claim you've won, beware. Wiring, cashier's checks, and money cards can be a fast way for them to take off and leave you holding the bag. Hold back and resist the initial temptation.

"I just hope nobody else get caught up in it," Tonya said.

She  isn't banking on getting her money back, but she is hoping telling her story will pay off by warning others about the price you really pay for this prize.

Woodruff also recommends Arkansans call police when they receive scam letters or calls. Even if you don't fall for it, alerting police to its presence in your area can allow them to notify the public about what's going on.

You can also contact the Consumer Protection Division of the Arkansas Attorney General's Office to make sure the scam shows up on their radar as well.

The Attorney General's Office is aware of this scam. While Tonya legitimately feels concerned for her safety, in a consumer alert, the office has advised that these scammers will not show up to your home, but use it as a pressure tactic to have people turn over money.

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