Crime

Elderly Benton County woman duped out of $300k

Scammers bilked an elderly Benton County woman out of $300,000 of her life savings by claiming she had won the lottery.

The 79-year-old was duped into paying the unknown man in several installments over several months, according to the Benton County Sheriff’s Office.

The ruse finally came to an end when the woman tried to cash the fake checks she thought were her lottery winnings, said Detective Sgt. Kevin McCary.

Although the sheriff’s office has investigated similar scams, the amount of money taken in this case makes it one of the worst, McCary said.

“This is the most amount of money I have come across,” he said.

The lottery scam has popped up across the nation and usually targets the elderly. Thieves tell victims they have won millions and need to pay fees in order to claim their prize.

“It’s one of the more common types of scams with elderly people,” McCary said. “It’s almost always with elderly people.”

The suspect started calling the woman in July and convinced her to send large sums of money to several bank accounts, McCary said. The caller apparently built a rapport with her and discussed personal information on the phone.

The scam was finally reported to the sheriff’s office Wednesday by the woman’s daughter.

“This person had a good hold on (the victim),” McCary said.

Investigators with the sheriff’s office are working to figure out where the calls came from, though it can be difficult to track phone numbers in scam cases, especially if they came from outside the country, which is common, he said.

The sheriff’s office will contact the state Attorney General’s Office for help in the case because of the large amount of money that was stolen.

McCary told the Herald that the lottery scam is prevalent in the area and encouraged elderly people and their families to report any suspicious calls immediately.

For more information on scams, visit bit.ly/fraudsafety.

Call any local law enforcement agency to report a scam, said officials.

Tyler Richardson: 509-582-1556; trichardson@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @Ty_richardson

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