SOUTHGATE, Mich. (WXYZ) - The call sounded legitimate. The contest paperwork looked so real! But both were the work of cruel rip-off artists who prey on the elderly, and a Southgate retiree is the latest victim.
“I’ve got all this here,” Joe told 7 Action News from his apartment. “It’s got IRS, and this one person, all the way through, tells me he is my coordinator from Prize Water House in Coupons.”
The name may sound familiar to people in this area from stories or adds from “PriceWaterhouse Coopers” the global professional services firm, but in no way are the contest and the company related
The documents he received say he’s won a new Mercedes, and a big house in Florida, and a lot more in cash. Joe read from some official looking documents about the prizes he won: “A lottery jackpot lump sum grand prize of $20 million.”
For the past 10 days now, 77-year-old Joe has been on cloud nine. But he was - almost daily - carefully following the money demands of the man assigned, allegedly by the contest company, to put Joe and the prizes together.
First the man wanted $500, then five more $500 payments to cover what, he claimed, were taxes and fees to get the prize. Joe’s total out of pocket?
“Right now, I’ve got a little over $10,500 tied up in this whole thing,” Joe admits.
While 7 Action News was interviewing Joe, he received still another call from the con man, and Joe tells him we’re recording the conversation.
“I need to tell you that this is being recorded for broadcast,” Joe said loudly in the speaker phone.
The man identified as Daniel not only kept talking, he tried to blame Joe for killing the deal, because Joe didn’t keep his winnings a secret.
Daniel said, “I don’t understand how come you’re basically putting yourself in a position to doubt me?”
Unfortunately, Joe was much more ready to doubt the warnings of his son about the con than the man on the other end of the phone.
“We did call the FBI,” Kurt told us. “They immediately said it was a hoax.”
He explained that his Dad was a smart, street savvy person and that “for him to be convinced and drawn in goes to show that this wasn’t cooked up in a garage in a weekend.”
It was tough for a son and his daughter-in-law to watch Joe struggle with the truth that was finally coming to light.
Still not wanting to believe he’d been taken for so much he said, ”I’ve worked with the guy for almost two weeks now,” speaking of Daniel, his contest coordinator. “He’s got to be the greatest con artist in the world.”
Joe was clearly hurt and disappointed, not about the money lost, but about what he hoped to do with it.
“I can live the way I live,” he said “I didn’t want any of this money for myself anyway. I want it for my family and my kids, everybody else. I’m an old man, I don’t know how long I’m going to be around here.”
Kurt fought back tears saying, he worked for 40 years to earn that and it hurts to see him lose it.”
What Joe wants now is to warn people about too-good-to-be-true contest winnings. He’s also angry that what happened to him won’t be investigated at all.
He didn’t realize that the FBI and other federal and state government agencies will only warn potential scam victims, but won’t go after what are usually off shore scam organizations with operatives in the US and Canada.
“I have a problem that the FBI doesn’t get involved with ... all the literature and all this stuff I’ve got here," he wonders. "That they can’t bring the down with everything I’ve got.”
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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