Elderly man loses $300K in sweepstakes scam

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SOUTH WEBER, Davis County — An elderly man was bilked out of more than $300,000, believing he had won the grand prize in a sweepstakes.

The man in his late 70s received a notice in the mail several months ago that he had won a $500,000 second-place prize. In order to claim it, however, he had to wire $4,000 for taxes on his prize money, said Davis County Sheriff's Sgt. Susan Poulsen.

Later, the South Weber resident received a letter that claimed the first-place winner was no longer eligible to receive his prize, and that the man would be awarded the $1 million grand prize and a new Mercedes-Benz if he sent more money, Poulsen said.

The scam didn't end there. Later, people claiming to be from the IRS, the Consumer Protection Agency and an insurance company all called the man at different times requesting money to facilitate payment of the prize, she said.

After four months and more than $300,000 later, the man went to police.

If there's a pressure connected to the payment, it's a scam.

–Sgt. Susan Poulsen

Poulsen said the incident is a difficult reminder that the public needs to continue educating the at-risk segments of society and help them not to fall victim to such scams.

"It seems so obvious to most people. I mean, we've been around these types of scams for so long now," she said. "It's just one of those things. If it's too good to be true, it is. And the majority of folks just toss those types of (sweepstakes notices) into the garbage and they're not going to be swindled by that. But there is a portion of the vulnerable people in our society that fall prey to these types of scams."

If a sweepstakes company requests money before handing out a prize, Poulsen said it's a sure sign it's a scam.

More Information
More information about preventing the elderly and other at-risk people from becoming victims of fraud can be found at the Consumer Protection Agency website, consumerprotection.utah.gov.

"There's just no legitimate company that is going to ask you to wire money or payment under any kind of a deadline or urgent type of situation," she said. "If there's a pressure connected to the payment, it's a scam."

Poulsen called the case an "active investigation." She said the money was believed to have been wired out of Utah, but still within the country. She noted, however, that the odds of recovering the money lost in such scams are traditionally low.

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