MENOMONIE — A telephone scam operating out of Jamaica has already stolen more than $75,000 from Dunn County residents.
The Dunn County Sheriff’s Department issued a news release March 19 warning county residents about the scam.
A number of Dunn County residents have already been victimized and have lost anywhere from several hundred dollars to more than $75,000, according to the sheriff’s department.
The scammers telephone elderly residents to say that they have won a sweepstakes or a lottery and that they are required to pay a fee to claim their winnings.
The callers may identify themselves as representatives of Publishers Clearing House or lotteries in foreign countries and have also posed as federal agents from the FBI, United States Customs or the IRS, the sheriff’s department says.
The scammers work to build their victims’ trust and to gain information, and then they use the personal information to convince their victims to send large sums of money.
After victims start sending money as requested, they are often asked to send increasingly large amounts of money until they have no more money to send, according to the news release.
The scammers provide an address, often outside of the state, and tell the victim to send money to that address by cash or by check.
After a scam has been completed, it is nearly impossible for law enforcement to trace the transactions back to the perpetrator. The addresses given to victims often are vacant or nonexistent, and the identities of the perpetrators are generally found to be stolen or falsified in some way. The telephone numbers are almost always outside of the United States, according to the sheriff’s department.
The Dunn County Sheriff’s Department is advising residents to use extreme caution if they are contacted by anyone telling them they have won a sweepstakes or a lottery but that they need to send a certain amount of money before they can claim their prizes.
“We want everyone to keep in mind that if it sounds too good to be true, it’s a scam of some sort,” said Sheriff Dennis Smith.
“Family members also are urged to monitor elderly relatives’ finances and educate them on these scams,” he said.