Elderly man falls victim to $150K scam

ELKRIDGE, Md. (WMAR) -- Police in Howard County are warning older residents of a scam that an elderly man fell victim to. 
Police are investigating a theft and fraud case in which an 86-year-old Elkridge man wired $151,000 to cover supposed taxes on a fake $1.6 million prize check. 
Police responded to the victim's home yesterday and learned that over the last month he has received multiple letters and phone calls from people claiming to be from "Publisher's Clearing House," as well as alleged the company attorneys and representatives from the IRS. 
In the scheme, the victim received a fake check for the winnings, but was told he would need an activation code proving taxes had been paid on the money in order to cash the check. 
Detectives are actively investigating this incident and are urging older residents and their family members to be aware of scams targeting the elderly. 
The Better Business Bureau has offered the following tips to prevent these types of scams:
  • No legitimate sweepstakes will require you to pay "insurance," "taxes" or "shipping and handling charges" to collect your prize. You should never wire or send money to anyone, anywhere who says you've won a prize.
  • Avoid investments that promise huge profits with no risk. "High-return" investments are not guaranteed and legitimate companies will tell consumers about possible risks involved. 
  • Never make an "on-the-spot" decision. If the person says you have to take the offer immediately or you will miss the opportunity, it is likely a scam. Legitimate companies do not pressure people to act without taking the time to look into the deal.
  • Never give out personal banking information, credit card numbers or social security numbers to someone who has called.
  • If someone calls from a "government agency" requesting money, ask for a certified letter on official letterhead.
  • Never hire someone who shows up at your door. If you are told your plumbing needs to be fixed, or the roof needs repair, the scammer may take money, but never do the work.
  • Caregivers should get involved with seniors' financial decisions as much as possible, especially when managing personal finances has become a burden.
  • Visit the homes of elderly relatives regularly. Ask about phone calls they've received.
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