MOUNT DESERT, Maine — Local police are investigating a scam that has resulted in a local woman losing $70,000, but they aren’t optimistic about being able to recover any of the money.
The woman, who police will not identify, appears to be another victim of the so-called Jamaican Lottery scheme, according to Lt. Kevin Edgecomb.
Over a period of a few months, beginning in summer and lasting until early last month, the victim sent money to a variety of callers who told her that she had won the lottery but that she needed to send them money in order to collect her winnings. Over that time she sent the callers, who appear to have been working together, approximately $70,000 in money orders and prepaid money cards and never received any money in return, Edgecomb said.
“They sweet talked her and called her ‘dear,’” Edgecomb said Tuesday. “They were promising her, like, $2 million.”
Edgecomb said the calls appeared to come from a Jamaican area code, but local police cannot be sure that’s where the callers were when they talked to the victim. He said he plans to interview the victim at least one more time and then forward the information to the Maine Attorney General’s office and to federal officials, who he said may have a better chance of making headway with the case.
But he added that he doesn’t expect the scammers will be caught or that any money will be returned, especially if the scheme was perpetrated from overseas.
“There’s probably nothing we can do,” he said.
Edgecomb said the scam artists called the woman, who is in her 80s and lives by herself almost nonstop and at all times of day. Edgecomb said he and police Chief James Willis even spoke to the perpetrators on the phone when they called while he and Willis were at the woman’s house trying to convince her it was a scam.
“When I was there interviewing her, the phone rang every 30 seconds,” Edgecomb said. “They wouldn’t let this woman sleep.”
At one point, the victim tried to take out a mortgage on her home in order to come up with cash to send to the scammers but her bank would not let her, the lieutenant said. When police interviewed her at her house, they found large piles of prepaid money cards that she had used to send money to the callers.
And even after police tried to intervene, Edgecomb added, the victim still sent another $1,000 or so to the callers. The calls came to a halt only after police, with the support of the woman’s family, unplugged all her phones and had her number changed to an unlisted number.
Edgecomb said it is frustrating that, despite the amount of information out there about these kinds of scams and the efforts of officials to make potential victims aware of them, people still fall for the schemes.
“It still happens,” he said. “It’s a struggle.”