• Last modified 900 days ago (Dec. 1, 2016)


‘Tis the season of scams

Staff writer

It’s the busiest time of year for scammers to try to take money out of people’s pockets.

Perhaps that’s why my roommate got a call from someone with a heavy accent claiming she’d won a huge prize from a well-known magazine marketer. He said he was calling to check if she’d been notified before. She said no, and he put her on hold while he “checked with someone else.”

Since she knows I love having fun with scammers, she handed the phone to me and said what he’d told her so far. When he came back on the line, he didn’t seem to notice “her” voice had changed.

He said they had tried to notify me but I didn’t answer the phone. I asked how I had won that much money in a drawing I didn’t enter, and he said they’d put names in a lottery and mine had been selected.

I acted excited and said I was so glad to hear I’d won a contest I didn’t have to enter, adding “that doesn’t happen very often.”

He asked a few questions “to verify that they are notifying the right person.” One was if I have a car. I said yes.

I asked when they were going to send a check in the mail. He answered that they would personally deliver the prize, and asked for my address.

I gave a made-up address in a different town. Then I asked how far they have to come to deliver the prize so I know when to expect them. He said they would come from Washington, D.C. and it would cost me $55 for traveling expenses. I said $55 won’t cover a trip that long and I should probably pay more.

If there was any doubt this was a scam, his answer was the clincher. He said “the IRS is paying for most of the trip.” It was hard not to laugh, but I said “the IRS probably wants to know I’m getting the money so I can pay the $5,000 I owe them from last year.” He assured me all my taxes are paid because the money is already taken out of the winnings, including that unpaid amount.

I said I’ll have the $55 ready when they show up with my check. He answered that they don’t accept cash or check. I could make a “Walmart to Walmart” transfer. I said the nearest Walmart is 100 miles away. He said in that case I could send the money by Western Union. I said the nearest Western Union agent is 50 miles away. He said I could drive my car. I said it only runs a block before it dies, so I’d have to walk. That, I said, would take me probably two months.

Just when I was expecting him to say I could buy a new car with my millions, he hung up. Scammers always hang up on me, but it’s a great laugh after I hear the click.

Law enforcement officials often remind us not to give out personal or financial information over the phone, and to remember we can’t win contests we did not enter or lotteries when we did not buy a ticket. Recent warnings alerted us that gift card scams are now popular.

No doubt those tips are good advice, unless you want to have some fun with them.

I wouldn’t want to keep all the fun to myself.

Last modified Dec. 1, 2016