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Rip-Off Alert: Con men prey on widower, Army veteran

Reported by: Marie Mortera
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Updated: 3/20/2013 5:53 pm
LAS VEGAS (KSNV MyNews3) -- If you think you're not vulnerable to falling prey to con artists, we have a story tonight that might change your mind. In this Rip-Off Alert, even the brightest among us can easily be lured by the promise of big money.

Lawrence Hawkins describes the con artists at the heart of a scam that cost his father more than $60,000.

"Arrogant is one, Demanding is a second, Lying is a third,” he said. "A few days after my mother died, my father got some sort of letter in the mail, saying she won some multimillion dollars."

To collect the jackpot, Hawkins' father was instructed he first had to pay taxes on the winnings. And the con men kept asking for more.

"He was paying out like the green grocer -- every week,” he said.

A telemarketing firm now had Hawkins’ information and started soliciting him over the phone, too.

"It's really insidious,” he said. “These people are persistent, and they don't know how to take ‘no’ for an answer."

So how could this Army veteran and former biochemist for the National Institute of Health fall for this scam?

"I think my father was lonely,” Hawkins said, “and I think what these scam people did on some level was provided some kind of consistency, there would be a consistent phone call coming in. The only thing my father got out of this was grief."

Lawrence says he wished his father had told him sooner, but postal inspectors say what happened is typical.

"It's the embarrassment and a lot of times it is fear of telling their families,” said U.S. Postal Inspector Lori McAlister.

"Anybody who thinks they will not fall victim to some kind of fraud or scam or what have you, be sure,” Hawkins said. “Check in with your parents, check in with your grandparents, check in with your aunts, uncles, elderly cousins. Whatever it is, check in with them and make sure everything is OK."

It is important for every consumer to know that no legitimate lottery will ever ask for money up front.


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