Police in Lethbridge, Alta., say senior lost $250K in sweepstakes scam

LETHBRIDGE, Alta. — Authorities in southern Alberta are warning people to be aware after an 81-year-old senior was defrauded of $250,000 in a sweepstakes scam.

Police in Lethbridge say they were contacted last week by the woman’s son, who said his mother had been persuaded by scammers to send large sums of money — mainly in the form of bank drafts — almost weekly since last March.

She had been told she needed to send the money to cover taxes and insurance so she could claim a cash prize she had won.

Investigators have determined the senior initially received a letter purporting to be from the Bank of America and indicating that she had won a U.S. sweepstakes.

She believed the letter was authentic and over the next 10 months dealt with numerous scammers on the phone.

They continued to press her for payments and to provide her personal and banking information.

Police say the woman received hundreds of phone calls from the scammers, who in mid-January began to indicate they were from the Canada Revenue Agency and said that she now owed Canadian taxes.

“These types of scams are unfortunately very common and the criminals behind them can be very convincing,” Sgt. Paolo Magliocco of the economic crimes unit said in a release Monday.

The Better Business Bureau says that almost 500,000 people in Canada and the United States have reported being the victims of sweepstakes, lottery or prize scams in the last three years.

“It’s critical for people of all ages to be vigilant and understand that if something sounds too good to be true, it is,” Magliocco said.

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