Wednesday, April 16 2014 10:54 PM EDT2014-04-17 02:54:16 GMT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A family fights back after scammers swindled a Shepherdsville senior citizen out of $75,000 by playing along and documenting every call and the details of every conversation because a new set of crooks is targeting the elderly woman again.
One call came as WDRB's Gilbert Corsey interviewed the Schmidt family. The man on the other end of the line identified himself as James Allen with Gold Rush International Sweepstakes.
Online search results confirmed the prize was fake.
Allen said he was from Las Vegas, Nevada but gave an 876 number linked to a Jamaican phone scam. He asked the family to pay the taxes and fees on an $18.5 million reward for the Christmas Grand Prize Bonanza.
During the call Allen said: "Listen we work with the Better Business Bureau, Publishers Clearing House and the FBI."
Allen believed he was talking to Regina, Stacey Schmidt's 78-year-old mother-in-law who fell for a similar phone scam two years ago. "She thought she won $450,000 in the Canadian Sweepstakes," said Regina's son, Neil.
The elderly woman kept meticulous notes including reference numbers and names of officials she'd spoken with like Dennis Miller and Roger Clemens. First she paid a couple thousand dollars, then $18,000, then $29,000; and by the end she was out $75,000 for "fees and taxes" with no money in return.
"It's hard, it's really hard especially when I saw her break down and say this is my funeral money," said Stacey Schmidt. "It's robbery, they just don't use guns. They use phones and they rob you in your home."
She's not alone. Reports say fraudulent telemarketing is a $40 billion industry and the coercing calls seem to increase during the holidays.
Someone called Stuart Smith's home this week saying they were from the Drug Enforcement Agency and wanted $400 to settle a warrant. Taylorsville police told him not to worry but Smith said, "It really scared me. It really did."
Stacey Schmidt says "Regina fell for the scam because she'd played the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes for 50 years and thought her big prize had finally come in. I was on the phone for five hours talking to state, local and federal agencies and nobody told me anything."
So the Schmidts are taking Regina's story public in hopes that it will stop at least one more senior form being swindled.
"As we're sitting here, that man is on the phone with somebody else's mom," said Stacey.