Faux sweepstakes, identity theft among summertime scams to be aware of



LORAIN Rose Rebeles received a phone call in March from a man claiming that she was the winner of $1.5 million.
Shortly after that, Rebeles received another call stating she had won $450,000.
The calls didnt stop there.
Rebeles, 86, started sending money to various sweepstakes last July. Since then, Rebeles said shes given more than $1,000 to scammers. Shes also been plagued by relentless phone calls and letters from scammers claiming to offer prize money, cars and electronics.
Im getting harassed by all these sweepstakes organizations, Rebeles said. One man called me 28 times in one day.
Various callers, providing names such as John Black, Will Smith and John Brown, have called Rebeles and claimed to be affiliates of Publishers Clearing House. One man, claiming to be from Washington, called and told Rebeles she had won $650,000. The man called three more times, later telling Rebeles shed won $3.5 million and that taxes had already been covered.
The man instructed Rebeles to take $345 to the nearest CVS pharmacy and ask for a scratch-off ticket. Out of curiosity, Rebeles went to CVS and asked the manager, who immediately told her she was being scammed.
It doesnt hurt to ask questions, Rebeles said.
Another day, a man claiming to be named William, told Rebeles shed won money and that he would show up at her Elyria home to present her with a check.
I said, No sir. I dont know you, I dont know them and I dont let strangers into my house, Rebeles recalled.
Rebeles stopped sending money to sweepstakes in January and has begged the callers to remove her from their phone and mailing lists. Though the calls have recently diminished, Rebeles said she still receives about six letters each day.
The letters all congratulate recipients for winning prize money, ranging from thousands to millions of dollars. All one has to do to claim their winnings is send a release or shipping and handling fee ranging from $8.95 to $25, or to call a number with a credit card ready, the letters claim.
Rebeles has received so many winning letters, she collects them in paper grocery bags before she throws them out.
Though the scammers have created a disruption in Rebeles life, she said she still appreciates the real Publishers Clearing House, from which she buys gifts for neighbors and family.
Its nice stuff. I feel bad for them, Rebeles said.
Faux sweepstakes scams arent the only way residents can be conned out of money.
Lt. Vince Molnar of the Avon Lake Police Department said hes seen numerous scams related to identity theft.
Molnar said people often go to file their tax returns and discover someone has already filed in their name.
The question is how these people are obtaining information, whether its through Internet transactions or someone with access to their bank records, Molnar said.
Residents should also be wary of sudden phone calls or letters from long-lost relatives. Molnar said the elderly are often targeted by scammers claiming to be a distant relative living in another country. The scammer will claim to be in jail and ask victims to wire them money.
In cases when money goes out of the country, action by the local departments becomes limited, Molnar said.
Molnar also warned of Craigslist scams, where people looking to sell vehicles or items of high value are asked to meet potential buyers at a location away from home. Sellers are often intimidated into swapping their goods for a check, which may be bogus, Molnar said.
Sgt. Mike Failing of the Lorain Police Department said the department receives numerous reports regarding sweepstakes scams, which often target the elderly, but residents should be aware of home maintenance and improvement scammers during the summer months.
Scammers often go door-to-door offering to mow lawns or fix roofs.
The problem is they dont have a lawn mower, Failing said. Theyre casing your home.
Failing also noted that companies need a permit from the city to do any residential home work. Copies of permits are kept by police and the mayors office.
If theyre offering services you havent requested, its most likely a scam, Failing said.

Article source: http://www.morningjournal.com/general-news/20140603/faux-sweepstakes-identity-theft-among-summertime-scams-to-be-aware-of

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