BANGOR, Maine — A Bangor resident, Pauline Hopkins, was scammed for 160 thousand dollars.
The 88-year-old lost all of her retirement savings when the scammer convinced her that she had won the sweepstakes from Publishers Clearing House, a marketing company that "markets merchandise and magazine subscriptions with sweepstakes and prize-based games."
Hopkins sent more than 30 different checks ranging from 300 to 10 thousand dollars. Scammers convinced her that she needed to pay state and federal taxes, in order for her to get her "grand prize."
"They are very polite, very convincing, and very nice talking to you, very nice people...on the phone," said Hopkins.
Nancy Howe is Hopkins daughter, she had no idea her mother was sending checks over the period of 8 months.
The head of security from Hopkins bank called her to notify her that she had been a victim of a scam and that unfortunately, it was too late to get any of her money back.
"I asked my mother about it that evening, and she said well they want to talk to you because I think I've been scammed, and I said well what are we talking about? and she said we have lost some money...and I said how much? She said: All of it," said Hopkins daughter, Howe.
"You won't know its a scammer calling, they are going to do everything in their power to appear legitimate," said Elizabeth Brunton, the community resource officer for Bangor Police Department.
Officer Brunton says phone and internet scams are considered elder abuse, as scammers prey and target the most vulnerable.
"I was told as time went on not to tell my family, to keep everything quiet after I had earned the money, saying the money was on its way," said Hopkins.
Bangor Savings Bank is not Hopkins bank, but here are some recommendations and warning signs to always take into consideration.
Red flags include:
- Unsolicited contacts
- You have to send money upfront in order to receive the prize
- You have to send money via wire transfer or reloadable card
- You must provide personal and financial information
- They don't want you to tell anyone
- You must ACT NOW!
"Do not be ashamed, some of the most sophisticated professional people are being scammer left and right, these guys are good...that's how they make their living," said Andrew Grover, Executive Vice President and Chief Risk Officer at Bangor Saving Bank.
"Everything that my father worked for and saved to make sure that she was cared for is gone," said Howe.
If you find yourself being the victim of a scammer immediately contact you bank and call the police department to hopefully freeze the money and prevent losing it.