Published: Feb 20, 2013 11:53 AM EST
Updated: Feb 20, 2013 3:10 PM EST

PUNTA GORDA, Fla.- A Punta Gorda resident lost almost $27,000 in a recent sweepstakes scam. The resident had received a phone call from a “Rebecca Miller,” who claimed to represent “The American Dream Sweepstakes.” The suspect told the Punta Gorda resident she had won the sweepstakes in the amount of $450,000. The victim was told that since the award was coming into Florida from the New York office she would have to pay $4,850 in fees. Miller instructed the victim to send a cashier’s check in this amount to an address in New York. Several days later the victim was re-contacted and instructed to send several more thousand dollars for other fees and taxes.

Unfortunately, this is a common scam in which seniors from all over are financially preyed upon. Here are some tips to avoid being a victim of a crime:

-Don’t send money anywhere to anyone without fully investigating the person and the company.

-If you “have to act now,” it’s not worth it.

-Ask for brochures and other information about the company or nonprofit. A legitimate organization will provide such materials.

-Never provide your bank accounts, credit card numbers, Social Security number, Medicare number, date of birth, or other personal information to someone who calls you on the phone.

-If it seems too good to be true, it is.

-If you feel uncomfortable, or have any doubts, listen to your concerns.

Don’t hesitate to call the Punta Gorda Police Department at (941) 639-4111 if you have been the victim of a scam, or an attempted scam, or if you have information about a scam.