Scammers posing as representatives of the Publisher’s Clearing House are calling around claiming people have won prizes; but they need to pay up first.                                Western News file photo

Scammers posing as representatives of the Publisher’s Clearing House are calling around claiming people have won prizes; but they need to pay up first. Western News file photo

Senior couple from the Okanagan scammed out of $30,000

A senior couple in Penticton seeks to warn others in the area after getting scammed out of $30,000

By Brennan Phillips

Special to the Western News

A senior couple in Penticton are warning others after getting scammed out of $33,996.11.

“We were taken to the cleaner’s and we don’t want anyone else to be taken in by them. You think people won’t lie to you, but it’s not true. It’s not true. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” said the wife, who asked their names not be used.

It all started on March 15 when a phone call came from a man using the name Michael Stanley, who claimed to be a representative of Publishers Clearing House. He asked for the senior woman, who had previously been a subscriber, by name and informed her she had won $488,000 U.S.

Related: How Okanagan seniors can outsmart scammers

It was less than 24-hours later that Stanley called back telling the couple that they needed to send $9,000 U.S. to cover the taxes. The couple were told that RCMP and a Publishers Clearing House representative would be on their doorstep on March 22 to deliver the prize so the husband went to the bank, pulling the funds off his credit card, and sent a money order.

Two days before they expected to receive a knock on the door and the prize, another call came from Stanley.

“(Stanley) told us, ‘You’re in luck, because the second prize winner didn’t have the money to pay the tax. So if you send us another $8,000, you’ll have a chance to win another $350,000, on top of the $488,000 we’ve already won for you,’” said the husband.

The couple borrowed the money to cover the second payment from a personal friend, who was worried they could be getting scammed. The husband became suspicious after yet another call from Stanley.

Related: Two-thirds of seniors have been scammed online

“I could smell trouble,” the husband said. “I said Michael, I don’t want no garbage here, you better be here on the 22nd otherwise I’m going after you. He said that’s why I want to explain to you, we had a computer problem, we had this problem, we had that problem. But he said, do not be concerned, the money you put out is in an account in the bank, he showed me the account. He said the money I put out will be covered with this.”

The scammers even had someone call the couple claiming to be from the bank headquarters in Toronto to attempt to ease their concerns. The couple were told there was $34,000 in an account waiting for them and when it all shook out, the couple had lost about another $10,000. But before they knew that the husband went to retrieve the money at his local branch, and was told the account had been deemed fraudulent and been frozen. Meanwhile Stanley continued to phone the couple, the husband believes up to 25 times in one day, asking for more money.

Upset at the time that their accounts were frozen, the husband said they are so thankful the bank recognized something was not right or they could have been out even more money as the scammers tried to transfer even more money from their accounts.

“We are scared like heck now to even answer the phone,” said the husband. “… (my wife), she’s been three days without sleep and in tears.”

Related: Bank employee save Penticton woman from $6,000 CRA scam

While they will never see their money return, all the couple want now is to prevent this from happening to someone else.

“My gosh if we can save half a dozen, a couple, one person from this — I think it would be a blessing,” said the husband. “We can’t get our money back now, all we can do is warn others.”

The RCMP and anti-fraud sites offer tips and advice to help better protect yourself against scams:

1. If someone calls offering money, but claims you need to pay for something to receive it, whether they say it’s fees, or taxes, don’t.

2. Try to get some contact information from the individual calling, if they refuse to provide any information, consider it suspicious.

3. If you are called by someone claiming to represent or work for a group, either a bank or any company, get their information, and then contact the group yourself to verify it.

4. In the case of Publisher’s Clearing House, they do not call in advance with their prizes. They will simply show up at your door with the prize. Do not believe anyone claiming to be from Publisher’s Clearing House.

5. Do not give out your bank information.

6. If you do give money, and the person or group you gave it to immediately comes back asking for more to cover ‘unexpected costs’ or things like that, it is likely a scam.

If you have been or think you have been targeted by a scam, make sure to report it to the local RCMP, as well as to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. You should also contact the bank where the money was transferred to, and report the incident to them, whether it is a bank, money service, or credit card company.

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