AN 82-year-old widower was conned out of more than £10,000 in an international lottery scam.
He was duped by cruel fraudsters after responding to a letter inviting him to play the Australian Lottery.
The unsuspecting victim from Portsmouth, who has not been named, thought his dreams had come true after being told he had won the £500,000 third prize.
Now the pensioner’s pride is in tatters after discovering he has lost his life savings.
The fraudsters even tried to trick him into laundering cash by sending cheques purporting to be from the lottery. In fact, they had been sent to him by other victims who were given his details and thought they were paying solicitors’ fees after winning cash. The scammers then asked for even more money but luckily he did not hand more cash over.
Police say the victim is among a growing number of pensioners being targeted by organised gangs. He is so ashamed he has kept his ordeal a secret from his family.
Detective Constable Allison Fraser said: ‘He hasn’t got £10,000 lying around to lose. He’s very, very embarrassed and quite ashamed of being caught out.
‘Unfortunately these guys are very good at what they do – which is why they get money.’
The victim initially paid £5 to play the ‘lottery.’ After being told of his ‘win’ requests for cash started, with scammers claiming they needed a fee to get the money through customs into the UK.
The victim paid more than £10,000 via a Cosham franchise of money transfer firm Western Union in an eight-month period.
The scam came to light when a worker questioned why he was sending such large sums of cash.
Police launched a probe – but his ordeal was not over.
The scammers continued to contact him, saying they would send cheques as a ‘goodwill gesture’ – and then asking for more money.
Hampshire police soon realised the tangled web woven by the conmen also involved victims in the Northumbria, Devon and Cornwall and Grampian policing areas. The investigation has now been referred to national fraud investigators.
Det Con Fraser said: ‘I’m receiving reports every day of people who are phoning who have been scammed or are concerned about phone calls they have received.’
She added: ‘If it looks too good to be true it probably is. By law you can only play that nation’s lottery if you are in that country at the time you buy the ticket. If you want to play the lottery go to a shop and buy a ticket from a machine.’