EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

August 13, 2013

Police issue scam warning

Phone calls, letters trick people to send money

By Mike LaBella
mlabella@eagletribune.com

---- — HAVERHILL — Police said many elderly residents of the city have fallen prey recently to several money scams, including one in which the victims were told they won a lottery and had to send Moneygrams to someone in order to claim prizes.

Most of these schemes involve the money being sent overseas, which makes the crime hard to prosecute, police said.

They said an increasing number of residents are falling prey to three scams that target people in Greater Haverhill.

Police Lt. Robert Pistone said the first scam involves victims being mailed checks for $2,500. They are told to keep $500 and send a money order for $2,000 to a person and location, only to find out through a letter from their bank a few days later that the $2,500 check was bogus. There was no $500 to keep and the victim’s $2,000 is gone, likely sent to an overseas location.

“The victim would now have to make good on the check and funds withdrawn from the bank,” Pistone said.

The second scam involves victims being called or sent letters about winning prizes of money and cars. Police said the victims are instructed to buy Moneygram cards for various amounts to cover the processing of the prize. The victims then call a number that was given to them and are told to scratch off the back of the Moneygram card and read the numbers to a processor who is unknown to the victim. The processor then wires or transfers the money into the scammer’s account.

“There actually is a third scheme where victims are being told their electricity is going to be turned off and they need to send funds via a Moneygram card or money order to keep their accounts in good status,” Pistone said.

Police want residents to keep in mind that unless they are playing a state-run lottery or are in a casino, it should not cost money to win a sweepstakes or prize.

“The old adage is that if it’s too good to be true, it usually is,” Pistone said. “Unfortunately people want to believe they are the recipients of good fortune, and it isn’t until it’s too late that they realize they are the victim of a scam.”