Reporting David Highfield
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Anyone who has an elderly parent should pay attention to this story.
Scam artists often target the elderly and they can be very convincing. The victim in this case is in his 80′s. Reporter David Highfield interviewed him a few years ago, but what has happened since may shock you.
It was 2008 when a local man told Highfield how he lost a staggering amount of money. He did not want his face shown, but he had a message to get out.
“Let this be a warning that these people are just waiting for you out there,” the man said.
It all began with a notice that he had won the Australian Lottery. Scammers sent him a prepayment check and he was asked to pay the taxes. But once he did, he learned the check they sent him was counterfeit. He had been scammed. But that was just the beginning.
“I had to put out so much money for this and so much money for that,” he said.
With the promise of $20 million waiting for him, he kept giving until three years into the scam.
“I blew up and I told them, ‘I’m not giving you another damn dime,’” the victim said.
His daughter learned scammers had tricked her dad out of $1.8 million.
“He didn’t share information with us until one day, my mother called me and said, ‘Your father has lost all of your money,’ and it just hit me like a thunder cloud,” his daughter said.
U.S. postal inspectors put hours and hours into the case and learned that the money went to England and then Nigeria. They even learned the account holder. But then, even after his first interview warning others, this man was convinced again by the scammers to give what little he had left.
“He sent additional money,” U.S. Postal Inspector Andrew Richards said. “He sent an additional $30,000.”
Highfield: “After we interviewed him?”
Richards: “After you interviewed him and after we talked to him an abundant amount of times.”
His daughter told KDKA-TV that the scam artists had convinced him to trust them more than his own family.
David Highfield: “He would tell the scam artists what the authorities were up to?”
Daughter: “Correct. Yes. So, it became an impossibility to try and track the money.”
“When he sends another $30,000, it can kind of take it out of the realm of being criminal,” Richards said.
Authorities had to drop the case and this family had a devastating reality to face.
“The money was gone. All the assets were gone. The house was put up for bankruptcy,” the daughter said.
She says one of the most frustrating parts is that once she learned what was going on, she was unable to stop him from sending more.
“We were not allowed as children to intervene to try and help him,” she said. “We had power of attorney for him, but that didn’t account for anything in the court’s estimation because he was still declared to be competent.”
She even tried to block mail from the scammers, but couldn’t. Now she is worried about her parents’ future with no money left.
“I just can’t stress to you how devastating this is. Your whole life is turned inside out,” she said.
The postal inspector told Highfield that this man is not alone. He said it is not unusual for victims to continue to give and many lose their life savings. The scammers are really good at convincing people not to trust their families.
So what can you do to protect your parents?
The inspector says to ask questions. Find out if anyone is calling them and put a young person’s voice on their answering machine and do not leave a name. Even consider being a co-signer on their bank account and see if you can set things up so there are no cash withdrawals, as long as your parents are willing to cooperate with you.