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Elderly victim bilked out of thousands in sweepstakes scam

COVINGTON — An elderly Covington woman is an apparent victim of another sweepstakes scam that has cost her tens of thousands of dollars.

According to reports with the Covington Police Department, the woman was contacted on her cellular phone a little more than a year ago by a man who said she had won a $6 million, a Mercedes-Benz and a flat screen television in a sweepstakes.

She was instructed by the man, who had a Jamaican accent and goes by the name, “Bob Marley,” to send him money in Jamaica through Western Union.

The victim and her daughter contacted the CPD in July 2012 and reported that the woman had sent the man money on 10 different occasions for a total of about $8,000. She had also accrued more than $1,300 in cell phone charges when she used her cell phone to call the man back.

The victim’s daughter told the police that she wanted to file the police report.

Police were again called to victim’s home on Wednesday. The victim said that “Bob Marley” had contacted her several more times to send money, and instructed her to open accounts at a of couple banks.

“(The victim) advised that she opened the accounts and Bob Marley sent her several checks in her name to cash at the banks,” the incident report states.

She also said that she cashed several checks at a local check cashing location. The woman told the police she had sent the man approximately $30,000 within a year’s time.

“(She) advised that she owes the banks and several creditors are calling her for replacing the funds,” the incident report states. “(The victim) advised that she was in contact with Bob Marley … until she told him that she was gong to call the police. Bob Marley threatened her and told her not to call that number again.”

Scams like this are not uncommon. Investigator Jeff Alexander with the Newton County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a case involving a 75-year-old man who was contacted in February by telephone and told he had won a $2.5 million sweepstakes. In order to collect his winnings, he needed to send $400. Once he sent the initial money, he was contacted repeatedly and told to send more money. At one point, the victim purchased $1,000 in Green Dot cards and sent them to the address provided by the scammer.

In all, he sent more than $5,000 before realizing he was being victimized and contacted the Sheriff’s Office.

Alexander said these sorts of con artists tend to prey on the elderly and those who are retired or on fixed incomes.

“Legitimate sweepstakes organizations, like Publisher’s Clearinghouse, and the lottery do not ask for money in order to send any winnings,” he said. “If anyone is contacted about being the winner of a contest or sweepstakes that you did not enter, do not engage with the person on the other end of the phone and just hang up.”