Norman Breidenbaugh, 81, a Navy Veteran from Baltimore, Maryland, lost his home, and all of his savings after being conned out of $400,000 by a Jamaican lottery scam, reports the Baltimore Sun. Breidenbaugh was weakened as he struggled to pay medical bills for his wife, Cindy.
Speaking at the Augsburg Lutheran Home, in a speech aimed at preventing other elderly citizens falling victim to similar scam, Norman spoke about a barrage of phone calls all aimed at scamming money. At first all he had to pay was $2,000 to claim the $2.5 million he had won on a Jamaican sweepstakes. Most would ask, "how could you fall for it?" But Norman told CBS Baltimore of the desperate situation he found himself in when trying to keep up with Cindy's healthcare bills.
Eventually the calls became more and more frequent, coming from both Canada and Jamaica, talking about problems in sending his winnings and needing more money. Some even promised more prizes because of the delay, including a Mercedes Benz. The prize money promised increased to $25 million at one point, but that he would have to pay taxes on the increased money. Norman was encouraged by his wife to keep sending the up-front cash for the prize money, money that would allow him to look after his wife, and himself, for as long as they both lived. Over a six year period, Norman parted with $400,000 in total. Now he says:
I don’t have a pot to go in or a window to heave it out of, I lost everything
Right after the Super Bowl was over, I was trying to talk to her a little bit and she took a couple deep breaths and that was it...
Cindy's death didn't deter the scammers, the calls continued, with the con men pretending to be from the FBI, Border Patrol, and the US Federal Reserve. "Really slick", is the term Norman uses to describe them.
According to the Sun article, scams like this are on the rise:
From January to September in 2012, people between the ages of 60 and 69 logged more than 1,400 lottery scam complaints against Jamaican companies and reported losing more than $4 million, according to FTC data. People 70 and older made more than 3,000 complaints and reported more than $9 million lost.
Meanwhile the Federal Trade Commission says that in 2008, just under 3,700 scams were reported. In 2012, that number was up to almost 30,000.
Scams like this have become such an issue, that bill was introduce last Tuesday before the Jamaican House of Representatives promising stricter punishments for those found guilty of running such operations, it reads:
The law in its present stage has proven to be ineffective in prosecuting offenders.
The Jamaica Observer reports:
The House of Representatives passed The Law Reform (Fraudulent Transactions) Bill, or the Lottery Scam Bill, to combat the illicit lottery scam, by making specific provisions for dealing with offenses relating to advanced fee fraud and other fraudulent transactions.