Faith Bender was alarmed when his 90-year-old mother told Bender that she had been the victim of a scam.
Her mom had received a phone call from people claiming she had won $150,000 in a sweepstakes. The money would be deposited into her account. All they needed was her bank number.
“She was so excited, she gave them the account number,” Bender said.
Luckily, Bender found out and changed the account before the scammers took much money out. But her mom wanted to believe the callers were telling the truth. She wanted to believe she had won big money.
“I warned her and warned her to stop talking to these people,” Bender said.
After the account was changed, the people called back. They asked Bender’s elderly mother why she had closed the account. That was a problem because she still had winnings to be deposited.
A representative from the sweepstakes would visit on Monday, they said.
Monday came and went without a visitor, but Bender’s mom received another call.
“Do you have a savings account?” the man on the other end of the line asked.
This time, Bender’s mom did not fall for the trick. She said she didn’t have one. Later, she received another call from the “sweepstakes” people and she outsmarted them.
She told the man on the line that she has trouble hearing and that she could not understand what the man was saying. Could she call him back?
The man, who said his name was Kevin Cooper, gave her a phone number and told her the password was “Virginia.”
So, Bender called. And called. And called.
“Every time I called, no matter what phone I used, I got a message that said, ‘This customer can’t come to the phone.’”
Finally, she got through to a person.
“The man told me that his name was Kevin Cooper and that he was from Sweeptakes USA,” Bentder said. “But it sounded like he was calling from a gas station.”
She asked for Cooper, and the man said Cooper worked in their Washington D.C. office.
“You’ve been calling my mother,” Bender said to the man.
“Oh yes,” he responded. “She’s one of our prize winners.”
“Yeah, right,” she answered. “Don’t you ever call her again. This is being turned over to the Daily Journal newspaper, the BBB and the sheriff’s department.”
The man responded, “This is a legitimate business!”
Bender’s temper got the best of her and she told him he was full of manure – only she used a naughty word.
The man replied, “Whatever school you went to, they didn’t teach you manners.”
“I told him, ‘Whatever school you went to, they taught you how to be a scammer!’’ Bender said. “She’s living in fear because they know her name, and they know her address.”
A reporter called the phone number and connected with a fast-talking man who answered USASWEEPSTAKES. When asked about Cooper, he first said there was no one there by that name.
“This is where you call to verify your winnings,” he said.
“Really? He called someone claiming to be from your company.”
The man answered, “He is from [mumble, mumble mumble).
“I’m sorry, I didn’t get that. Where does he work?”
“National (mumble mumble) Agency.”
“I’m sorry, but you are talking so fast I can’t understand the whole name.”
Sounding exasperated, the man repeated the name very loudly.
“National Consumer Protection Agency!”
“Thank you. I’ll call him there.”
However, no National Consumer Protection Agency shows up in search engines online. The closest agencies to that name are the Contacted National Consumer Protection Bureau, which has no Kevin Cooper on the staff, and the National Consumer Agency (NCA) an agency in Ireland that defends consumer interests.
Scammers like to prey on the elderly who grew up in a trusting society and tend to be more vulnerable to schemes. Although it is unlikely that the scammers will come to their victims’ homes, even if they know the address, it is wise to advise the elderly in your family not to open the door to strangers and to check for identification before allowing servicemen they have requested to enter their homes. Better yet, ask a relative to be at the home when repairs are made.
Advise the trusting members of your family to never reveal personal information to an unsolicited caller, no matter how great the reward promised.
Sometimes scammers use the names of people you know. This might be a coincidence, or they could have hacked into the person’s contact list. Always contact that person directly if you have questions about an e-mail that purports to be from him or her.
The Daily Journal has made a commitment to keep readers abreast of scams that hit our area. If someone tries to make you the victim of a scam, call us at 431-2010 and tell us what happened. We will include your story in our scam alert series to prepare others who may find themselves in the same situation. The Daily Journal will run Scam Alert stories in the paper every Monday.