Scams hit locally

Feb. 07, 2013 @ 06:34 AM

It came as a surprise to Donna Downey when she received a phone call telling her she had won $173,000.

What happened after that was also a surprise.

Downey, of Rutherford County, started to make inquiries into her newfound fortune and learned that it was too good to be true.

“They called it insurance and I was told that I couldn’t collect until I paid that insurance,” Downey said.

The individuals asked for payment of $1,250 to cover the insurance of the winnings. When Downey dug a little deeper, it became evident that she was being targeted for a scam.

“What clued me in was that they said they had already paid the taxes,” Downey said. “I was wondering if they were legit at that time. That just doesn’t happen.”

According to Forest City Police Capt. Chris Lovelace, in sweepstakes, the winner will have the taxes taken out of the overall winnings before getting a check for the remainder.

Another county resident reported having an individual come to their house and offer sweepstakes winnings. The catch was that the winner had to pay the taxes ... right then.

“He suggested that she go to Wal-Mart to get some gift cards and she shut the door,” Lovelace said. “He stuck his foot in the door.”

The man, who identified himself as Michael Evans gave the resident a phone number that had a Jamaican area code. Lovelace said there have been reports of phone calls coming to individuals with an 876 area code, but this was the first time someone had appeared on-site.

“Mostly, those numbers are tied to scams,” Lovelace said. “Usually, it is just tied to sending money.”

The name the man gave Lovelace believes is an alias. The only description that Lovelace had of the man was that he was black and in his mid- to late-30s.

Lovelace said that the recent reports of these scams means that heightened awareness needs to be given to avoid getting trapped paying money for something that doesn’t materialize.

He said to beware of anyone claiming to offer a prize but requiring money upfront.

Due diligence also helps, as in the case with Downey.

“Honestly, if they hadn’t told me they paid the taxes, I may have gone through with it because I had entered about four sweepstakes through the mail,” Downey said. “They tried everything in the world to try to get me to send that $1,250.”