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86-year-old man targeted in sweepstakes scam

March 7, 2009

The Wauwatosa Police Department is investigating a sweepstakes offer that promised an 86-year-old Wauwatosa man $3.5 million if he would pay a processing fee.

On Monday, the resident received a call around noon from a woman saying she represented a Florida-based lottery and sweepstakes commission and that he was a winner. She went on to say members of her staff were in Racine handing out money to another winner and she needed to verify some personal information so they could visit him next. In addition, she told him to have a $970 check ready to cover the processing fee.

Wary of a scam, the resident called the Wauwatosa police. An officer called the number and talked to the woman, who hung up before the conversation was finished.

Within the next half hour, the woman called the resident back and directed him to go to Wal-Mart to buy a money order and send it to a Florida address. She said the "commission" would call her about her prize after it received the money.

Such processing fee scams that target seniors are on the rise, said Merry Noel Johnson, Hart Park Senior Center director. On Friday, she warned members of a scam by an organization that represents itself as a senior center association.

Seniors receive surveys via mail that ask some mundane questions about national politics and their lifestyles. Then it asks for a $27 processing fee to cover the cost of doing the study.

"If it sounds too good to be true, it is," she said. "If they ask for money, do not pay it."

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