LEE COUNTY, Fla.- A Southwest Florida woman wants to warn others, after she was scammed out of nearly $7,000.
The woman, who did not want to reveal her identity, says it all started with a phone call last month. A man told her she won $8.5 million, a new car and a credit card. All she had to do was wire money to make it happen.
She sent about 11 transactions up until last week, totaling about $7,000. Now, she's out that money and wants to warn others not to fall victim to the same scam.
She says the man was so convincing and kept telling her everything was on the 'up and up.'
She says, "well after it got going and I spent so much money I wanted him to stop and he said no, just a little further on, have patience with me, you'll get everything."
She said the phone calls haven't stopped coming, especially after she told the man that she didn't want to send any more money. He calls constantly, asking for her to call him back and that it is "100% legitimate." She says he also told her there would be a penalty fee if she stopped making the payments, so she paid that too.
She said, "I got my credit card I gotta pay off, cause the rest came out of my savings and two checking accounts. Now I'm down to broke, I don't even have food in the stupid refrigerator because I don't have money to buy it. I've learned a very, very hard lesson and I'll never get this money back and I just hope nobody else gets talked into what I got talked in because they are so believable."
She says looking back, there were red flags. "I just believe in people and believe what they tell me and now I know I've been taken as a sucker and I'm just stupid. Looking back I shouldn't have believed him but I did, and now I have this money to pay back, and I wish he would just quit calling me up."
The Lee County Sheriff's Office says a real sweepstakes will never ask the winner to send in money to get a prize. Fraud investigators also say the crooks can disguise their phone numbers to make them seem local, and will also look up landmarks to make you think they are in your city.
If you get a call like this, investigators say hang up right away and don't engage in conversation. Also, beware of calls from an 876 area code, as that is likely a scam from Jamaica. Also, keep in mind Publishers Clearinghouse will never call a winner to tell them they won something, they'll just show up at the door.
If you think you are victim of a scam, you can call the sheriff's office scam hot line at 239-477-1242.