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Elderly victim of a sweepstakes scam has died

COVINGTON — A elderly woman who told police she had fallen victim to a scam that cost her $30,000 has died.

A Covington Police Department officer was called to a home on Capes Drive around 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 19, because the 80-year-old woman was distraught.

According to the report, the woman told a friend that she “did not want to live anymore because she had nothing to the live for.” The victim told police that she had sent a man in Jamaica who goes by the name “Bob Marley” about $30,000 over a year’s time.

The officer called Newton EMS to the scene and the woman, who had taken a significant amount of medication, authorities said, was transported to Newton Medical Center. According to the report, the victim died the next day.

“This is a sad case, a sad situation,” said CPD Capt. Ken Malcom.

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 $6 million, a Mercedes-Benz and a flat screen television in a sweepstakes.

She was instructed by “Bob Marley,” who had a Jamaican accent, 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 return the man’s calls.

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

When police were called to her home on March 19, 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 banks and creditors had begun demanding that she replace the funds and “Bob Marley” threatened her when she told him she was contacting the police, the report states.

Capt. Malcom said scam artists like this are shrewd and prey mostly on senior citizens using a number of techniques to lure their victims into turning over money.

“They may call 100 different people a day, but they only need one or two to take the bait,” he said. “And when the victims do challenge them, they often become hostile and threaten and intimidate them. Many victims know they probably should not continue to give money, but they feel they have to.”

To further complicate matters, the scammers are often located out of the country – many in the Caribbean – and use untraceable telephone numbers, which makes it difficult to pursue criminal charges, Malcom said.

“These people are ghosts,” he said.

Malcom said everyone at some point in their lives has probably been manipulated into doing something that is not wise, so it’s important to remember a few tips:

• If you haven’t entered a contest or a sweepstakes, you haven’t won anything;

• Investigate the sweepstakes if contacted and ask a family member or trusted friend for advice or to help you check into claims of any winnings;

• Don’t be intimidated by the scammers. “They’re not going to come after you,” Malcom said;

• If you do send money, in some cases you can reverse the transaction. Malcom said there is a very short window of time – perhaps just a couple of hours – if the transaction is reversed before the other person picks up the funds; and finally,

• If it sounds too good to be true, it is.