Offshore Sweepstakes Callers Hit the Elderly

Next time your telephone rings and you don’t recognize the number, you may want to consider letting it go to voice mail. It could be a telemarketing rip-off like the one that just landed a couple of guys in prison.

Glen Adkins Jr., 43, of San Diego, California, got 25 years behind bars and Warren F. Tonsing Jr., 43, of St. Paul, Minnesota, is going away for 12 years. They are also required to pay $2.4 million in restitution along with their co-defendants.

What got them in hot water was a scheme based in a Costa Rica call center that targeted U.S. residents, mostly people over 55 years of age. The victims were fooled into believing that they had won a large sum of cash in a so-called sweepstakes contest, and to receive their prize money they had to wire thousands of dollars to Costa Rica as a “refundable insurance fee.”

Calls were disguised

The computerized Internet calling system they employed enabled them to disguise the origin of the calls. They told victims that they were calling from a federal government agency, usually the Federal Trade Commission. Once they got a chump to make a payment, they upped the ante and kept asking for more.

They raked in millions. So far, 46 defendants have been convicted in Costa Rican-based phone scams.

Vulnerable senior citizens

Predators who target the elderly and the desperate with their slick con games are the worst kind of scum. If they went after the greedy who just want some more easy money, that would be one thing. But most of the victims here are vulnerable seniors who can scarcely afford to lose what little money they have.

Don’t fall for their lies. If you have caller ID and see a strange number pop up, let it ring. The caller will leave a message or call back if it is important. Once con artists get you on the line they can be difficult to get rid of.

If you do enter into a conversation with someone, play it smart and commit to nothing over the phone, even a legitimate charitable contribution. Ask to see something in writing or simply hang up the telephone. Or first tell them to shove off and then hang up the phone.

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