Elderly Calif. women prey to scammers

Jan. 12, 2010 at 7:19 PM

SAN JOSE, Calif., Jan. 12 (UPI) -- An elderly California woman, scammed out of more than $300,000, got back some when her checks were intercepted at the Canadian border, federal officials said.

The 82-year-old San Jose woman got back $7,000, but had sent three checks comprised of her savings when she was notified by phone that she had won $4.5 million in the Canadian sweepstakes. She said a man who purportedly was from the U.S. Dept. of Justice told her she needed to pay taxes before she could have her winnings, the San Jose Mercury News reported Monday.

The woman sent in another $7,000 in cash when the man told her she had also won a Hong Kong lottery in the amount of $10 million before the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement determined what was happening and intercepted the envelope with the money at the Canadian border, ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said.

At least two other elderly San Jose women fell prey to similar scams, said the assistant special agent in charge of ICE's San Jose area, Joseph Vincent. There were no arrests in those instances, but one of the women got her $4,000 back.

Project COLT (Center of Operations Linked to Telemarketing) is investigating these cases, coordinating with ICE, the FBI, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Quebec Provincial Police, the Mercury News reported.

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