PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — In September 2020, an 82-year-old Port St. Lucie man said he got a phone call from someone claiming he had won $4.5 million in the Mega Millions lottery. But he had to do something first to claim it.
"In order to claim his earnings, he had to give $20,000 upfront," Port St. Lucie police Assistant Chief Richard Del Toro said.
Over the next nine months, the victim would end up sending nearly $110,000 to the scam artist. He finally went to police last week.
"He was just, at the end, so embarrassed about what happened and wasn't really forthcoming at first, but finally decided to report it," Del Toro said.
Marty Jacobson is with Seniors vs. Crime, a project of the state attorney general's office, first founded in the late 1980s. He said it's his job "to mitigate on behalf of senior citizens to get their money back."
"Last year we recovered $2 million, with every penny going back to senior citizens," Jacobson said.
Jacobson said the services are free, but lottery scams are especially tough.
"A lot of these people are calling from foreign countries and they've cloned a phone number, or they may be calling from the United States and they have excellent sales pitches and they make you believe that you're a winner," he said.
Jacobson was also aware of the two cases last week in the city, where home health aides were accused of theft, one of stealing a stamp collection and another a Purple Heart of a recently deceased veteran.
Jacobson said there's no certification for being a home health aide.
"They are not licensed in the state of Florida," he said. "Your best bet is to go to an agency that provides you with some insurance and some proof of bonding on behalf of these people that you plan to employ."
For more information about Seniors vs. Crime, call 800-203-3099 or visit seniorsvscrime.com.