MOUNT CARMEL - There's nothing new about sweepstakes scams being attempted in this region, but none has been more elaborate than the scam attempted on an elderly Mount Carmel couple earlier this week.
The names of the husband and wife were withheld by the Mount Carmel Police Department on Thursday to protect their privacy. But MCPD Assistant Chief Mike Campbell said they both attended his scam seminar for the elderly held recently at the Mount Carmel Senior Center, and in their case the seminar literally paid off.
They didn't fall for what Campbell described as a very convincing ploy to cheat them out of $4,000.
The couple received a letter in the mail on the letterhead of an actual law firm in Miami and signed by a person impersonating an actual attorney in that city. The Mount Carmel couple had actually entered a sweepstakes contest, so when they received the letter they thought it might be real.
The letter said they'd been awarded $1.6 million that is currently held in a legitimate trust fund, and that all taxes on the award had been paid for them.
The only thing they had to do to collect the funds was to pay half of an $8,000 insurance premium due on the trust fund through the famous international firm Lloyd's of London.
The letter stated that the law firm must receive the $4,000 within a week in order to transfer the funds.
The Mount Carmel couple called the phone number on the law firm letterhead and spoke to a person claiming to be the attorney, and that impersonator gave them an address to mail the money. Then they took the letter to Campbell at the MCPD.
"This is really the most elaborate sweepstakes scam we've come across so far," Campbell said. "Apparently the people they spoke to over the phone were very convincing, and this couple almost believed it was real. But because they had attended my classes on con artists, thankfully they came to see me before sending off the money."
Campbell said he has been in contact with detectives in Miami and forwarded them the address where the Mount Carmel couple were supposed to send the money. He said Miami detectives were planning to pay a call on that address, but as of Thursday evening Campbell hadn't heard back.
"Hopefully the information this couple provided to me is going to help Miami make some arrests," Campbell said. "Authorities in Miami said there have been complaints about this same scam from several different states, but we still don't know how they pick their victims. We believe it is important to notify the public that these sweepstakes scams are still taking place, and apparently they're getting more elaborate.
"If you are contacted about a sweepstakes, please don't send any money. Contact your local law enforcement agency immediately."