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 An 85-year-old Warren man was recently scammed out of $34,600.50 after he was contacted about $1.2 million in bogus prize money.

An 85-year-old Warren man was recently scammed out of $34,600.50 after he was contacted about $1.2 million in bogus prize money.

Photo provided by the Warren Police Department

Sweepstakes scammers bilk Warren senior out of $34,000

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published July 5, 2019

WARREN — An 85-year-old Warren man thought he won a $1.2 million sweepstakes cash prize last month. But police said he really ended up getting scammed out of the $34,600.50 he apparently sent by personal checks to cover taxes on the mythical prize money.

Detective Sgt. Paul Houtos, of the Warren Police Department, said the whole thing began on June 19, when the senior citizen was contacted out of the blue — he never entered a sweepstakes — claiming that he was a winner in a “cash giveaway” through Publishers Clearing House. He was apparently instructed to contact a man named “David,” who later told him he needed to pay a portion of his state taxes on the money he won.

“He cut a check for $5,100. He sent it to an address in Massachusetts,” Houtos said. “A couple of days later, he was instructed that he needed to pay the entire balance of his taxes.”

Houtos said the man wrote another check and this time sent it to an address in New York in the amount of $29,500.50.

The scam played out over a two-week period until July 1. Houtos said the man later received a bogus check for $1.2 million, along with a letter about a large amount of taxes on the fictitious winnings owed to the IRS.

“That’s when he started to get suspicious. That’s when he ended up ripping the letter up,” Houtos said. “He tried to put a stop on the checks, but it was already too late. They already got cashed.”

Investigating instances of fraud that cross state lines is difficult for law enforcement. Identifying suspects tied to phone conversations and checks cashed by unknown parties in other states is often not feasible.

The best defense, police said, is to be wary of news that sounds too good to be true, and to look out for elderly relatives, neighbors and even customers at local businesses who might be taken in by scams looking to pilfer their savings.

“You hope someone would look out for these seniors,” Houtos said.

Anyone wishing to report suspicious activity or an act of suspected fraud can reach Warren detectives at (586) 574-4810.