Lottery scams affecting elderly

March 7, 2013 at 4:34 PM
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BALTIMORE, March 7 (UPI) -- An 81-year-old Maryland man says he was scammed out of more than $400,000 in a lottery fraud.

In six years, Norman Breidenbaugh was scammed out of the money by people who called and told him he had won various lotteries, The Baltimore Sun reported.

Breidenbaugh said the first person who called told him he had won $2.5 million in a foreign sweepstakes and that he needed to send $2,000 in fees before he could collect his earnings. He then received more and more calls promising more money, but he had to pay taxes on the prizes up front. He never received any of the money.

"I never told anybody what kind of mess I was in because I was too proud, too stubborn to let anybody know it," Breidenbaugh said. "I'd like to wring the necks of these people."

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service estimated Americans lost more than $42 million between 2009 and 2011 to bogus lottery scams. The scams are often based out of Jamaica and other Caribbean countries and target senior citizens, inspector Frank Schissler said.

Federal Trade Commission data show these scams are on the rise: In 2008, 3,606 lottery scam complaints were made about Jamaican companies while a projected 28,702 were made in 2012.

For its part, Jamaica's House of Representatives Tuesday began considering a bill that imposes tougher punishments for people convicted of running such scams.

"The law in its present stage has proven to be ineffective in prosecuting offenders," the new bill reads.

Breidenbaugh said he plans to share his story with his peers to help them avoid making the same mistake.

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