POWHATAN COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — One day after a prominent preacher in Powhatan County was indicted in connection with an international lottery scam targeting victims in Central Virginia, investigators are sharing tips on how you can prevent from being duped.
Frederick Shmidt, 81, is accused of fleecing people out of tens of thousands of dollars. Authorities say he did it through what’s being referred to as the ‘Jamaican Lottery Scam.’ The well-planned scheme targets the elderly and costs many of them their life savings.
“The only reason it stopped was she over-drafted her account,” Diane Iorio’s said of her mother, who lost more than $100,000 to strangers. “This is essentially her life savings.”
Detectives say she mailed the money to a man in Powhatan County — Shmidt — who’s now facing felony larceny charges.
Investigators say con artists in Jamaica convince elderly victims in the U.S. that they’ve won a sweepstakes, and all they need to do is pay taxes on the winnings to cash in on millions of dollars.
“You have that first interaction via email or computer or something like that, and then it’s followed up by a very convincing scammer on the other end of the line trying for you to send that money through the mail,” U.S. Postal Inspector Michael Romano explained.
“When you see those calls, you should put the phone down.”
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service has created a video to help educate people about the widespread scam. They warn you should ignore unsolicited emails, texts or phone calls that claim you’ve won money.
And if you have an aging parent …
“You’re going to need to look at their phone, emails, text messages, engage in that partnership so you can see who’s calling and emailing them as well,” Romano added.
CLICK HERE for more tips from the USPIS on how to avoid being scammed.