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Largo 79-year-old falls victim to clever scammers

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LARGO, Fla. (WFLA) – Two months ago Ray Smith started receiving sweepstakes letters promising millions of dollars in prizes.

“A prize of a car. At one time it was two cars and some checks,” the 79-year-old Smith explained.

To collect, he had to send in a small fee – then another small fee. “And then … a company that’s supposed to be delivering the prize. And everything they do, they gotta have some money,” Smith said.

His good friend, George Fulk, knew Smith was in deep. “I said, ‘Raymond, it looks like a scam to me. I would not send ’em money.’ Anytime you have to spend money to get money, it’s a scam,” Fulk said.

He points out the letters have no street address and no phone number. “The fact that he sent ’em little checks in the beginning, and then they kept asking for more and more money, showed me that it was a scam,” Fulk said.

The situation gets worse. Smith sold his 2004 Chevy Malibu for $500 – and sent that money in. Now, a bicycle is his only way to get around.

Smith used Western Union to send money to Ohio. He sent more than $300 on one occasion and more than $250 another time. Added up, Smith sent in about $1,600, slightly more than his $1,400 monthly Social Security check.

Through it all, Smith still thinks riches are around the corner. “I think something is gonna, I’m gonna get something out of it. But when, I don’t know,” he said.

Never send money to enter a sweepstakes or contest, even if it’s disguised as a processing fee. It’s a bad sign if a supposed sweepstakes only has a P.O. box.

Also, be sure to check on elderly relatives if you suspect they are losing track of expenses.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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