Make-a-Wish phone scam returns

June 14, 2010 at 7:23 PM
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WASHINGTON, June 14 (UPI) -- A massive telephone scam aimed at elderly Americans and using the Make-A-Wish Foundation name has returned after a four-year absence, authorities say.

The charity has issued a national fraud alert, hoping to warn potential victims of the telemarketing scheme promising big payouts -- a scam the U.S. Justice Department had hoped was wiped out four years ago, ABC News reported Monday.

A retired Pennsylvania elementary school teacher who was victimized out of $23,000 collapsed with a mild heart attack when he discovered he had been taken.

"It's a terrible loss. I was scammed. I was just scammed," said Robert Sussman. "I felt like I was ready to kill myself," he said. "I can't afford to part with $23,000."

The Make-A-Wish Foundation has received dozens of calls in recent weeks from victims of the scam in which a telemarketer purporting to be from an insurance company or a government agency calls to announce that the person has won a sweepstakes sponsored by the charity, ABC said.

The mark is told they need to wire an insurance or tax payment to collect a (nonexistent) prize ostensibly worth about $350,000. Follow-up phone calls made by the victim to phone numbers resembling area codes and actual numbers of the Internal Revenue Service, Lloyds of London and the Make-A-Wish Foundation do not reach the actual organizations, but alleged con artists sitting on offshore phone lines.

Authorities say the elaborate phone scam is being run from call centers in Jamaica, Costa Rica and other off-shore locations, ABC news said.

The Federal Trade Commission said anyone believing they've had such a scam call and wishing to file a complaint can go to or call 1-877-FTC-HELP.

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