Elderly Hurst man loses $18,000 in phone scam, police say

A Hurst man is another victim of a scam targeting elderly residents in North Texas as he was conned out of $18,000 after he was told that his wife had won money from a sweepstakes entry, Hurst police said Wednesday.

Last month, a 74-year-old Hurst woman was swindled out of $6,000 in what authorities say is one of the most common telephone cons in this country: the Canadian granny or emergency scam.

In the sweepstakes scam this month, the 80-year-old Hurst man, who was not identified, wired five payments totaling $18,000 on Oct. 12 and Oct. 15 to cover what were described as "legal fees."

But he never received any documentation of the winnings or the money.

"They never said how much money his wife won," Hurst police Sgt. Craig Teague said Wednesday. "But they just said it was a large amount."

The man told police that he received a call Oct. 12 from a "major publishing company" that said his wife had won some money.

The caller told the man that to receive the prize money, he needed to wire payments to cover legal fees.

The man used Western Union to wire some of the money Oct. 12, then sent the rest Oct. 15, all to Costa Rica, Hurst police said.

Officials with the Better Business Bureau say that phony calls from alleged publishing companies have been around for years.

According to BBB websites, prize winners will not be notified by phone or mail.

Consumers who win over $10,000 will be awarded the prizes in person.

Those winning under $10,000 will receive an affidavit via certified mail.

And for legitimate publishing company sweepstakes, winning a prize is always free.

Winners do not need to send money to collect the prize.

There's no payment for legal fees, taxes, custom fees, border security or any other reason.

Con artists working the granny or emergency scam pose as grandchildren or other relatives who have been arrested, involved in car accidents or stranded in Canada.

They call relatives in this country needing money.

Last year, 1,247 American residents filed complaints with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Call Centre.

Of those, 982 Americans wired about $4 million to con artists.

To report sweepstakes and lottery fraud cases, call the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-382-4357.

Domingo Ramirez Jr.,