Senior turns tables on phone scammer
When Mary Voris got a phone call July 28 at her Fallon home from a man claiming she had won the Canadian Lottery, she asked what she had to do to get the $250,000 prize.
She needed to send him a money order for $1,900, he said. Voris hung up.
The man called back that afternoon, saying she had won the Australian Lottery. To claim that prize she needed to send $500. Again, she hung up.
“I thought that was the end of that,” Voris said.
On Tuesday, the man called her at 7:30 a.m., again claiming she won the Canadian Lottery.
“Since the last call, July 28, I talked with two girlfriends at the Fallon Senior Center about it, and they told me to string him along, try to get his telephone number and address. I thought this was a good idea,” she said.
So when that 7:30 a.m. call came in, Voris played along.
“He gave me the same line about the Canadian Lottery. I told him I’d send the money order, but I needed to know where to send it. He gave me a name and address of a woman in Quebec, Canada. Then he said I’d see a Brinks security truck at my front door to escort me to my bank.”
Voris did not send the money. Instead, she called Churchill County Sheriff’s Department. Then she called the FBI and the Nevada Attorney General’s Office, which gave her the phone number of “Phonebusters,” a division of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Phonebusters thanked her for the information and said they would follow up.
“I talked with a very nice man named Alan,” Voris said. “He told me to remember one thing: it never takes money to get money.”
Nevada Attorney General’s Office investigator Teresa Duffy advised Voris to “keep playing” the caller. It paid off when the man agreed to give Voris his phone number. The number was to a private home in Quebec.
“I told him I would call him when I mailed the money order. He was so stupid, he gave me the number. Then he gave me his name, which was even more stupid.”
Voris, 65, said it didn’t bother her to play the caller for more information. Though she wondered if the money could be going to fund terrorists, she was not scared. She just wants others to be educated and aware. The Churchill County Sheriff’s Department told her a senior in Fallon was recently scammed out of $14,000.
“These people need to be caught. If they’re legitimate, they’ll give a name and number. If not, they’ll hang up. People need to be sure of who is calling them, and if they just think, it doesn’t take money to get the winning money. I work at the senior center in Fallon, and it just worries me what could happen.
“I just don’t want anybody to get scammed. We have a lot of senior citizens out here — I’m a senior citizen myself — and I’d hate to think someone would get bilked out of their money.”
Duffy said it is up to the public to become educated about scams.
“These people are so convincing and ingenious,” Duffy said. “The majority of people they solicit are seniors. The Nevada Attorney General’s Office is doing their best in conjunction with surrounding agencies to stop them.”
Duffy said her office works with the Secret Service in particular, but also with the FBI and Reno Police Department. They have fraud meetings once a month to share information.
“Scam artists could be anywhere,” she said. “We don’t have jurisdiction outside of the United States. There’s not much we can do except educate the public.”
Duffy said law enforcement agencies in Canada are overwhelmed with white-collar crime, and with Homeland Security issues, cases like these are secondary in the United States. If complaints continue, Duffy said the Attorney General’s Office will try to set up a sting.
“Just remember, anybody that calls you (about winnings), you need to be suspicious of,” she said.
Duffy said that if you think you’re being scammed, call local law enforcement. Then contact Consumer Affairs Division in the Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau.
WHO TO CALL
Carson City Sheriff’s Department: 887-2500
Consumer Affairs Division: (800) 326-5202 (www.ag.state.nv.us)
Better Business Bureau: 322-0657 (bbb.org)
Fraud Hotline: (800) 266-8688
Phonebusters, a division of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police: (888) 495-8501