Area residents are being encouraged to be on the lookout for fake lotteries and other financial scams after a few large cons were pulled on residents of Paso Robles in recent months.
Although specific data detailing the increase in crimes isn’t available, a few residents have lost several thousand dollars, according to Paso Robles police detective Michael C. Rickerd.
“If you receive a notice about a prize or money award that seems too good to be true, it probably is,” he added, urging concerned residents to call their local police department.
Rickerd said he recently handled the initial stage of an investigation into a Paso Robles man’s transfer of $200,000 to Spain as part of a scam that his family found out about after his death.
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The man was reportedly promised a cash prize worth millions if he wired the money; the case has been handed over to the FBI because it’s tied to an alleged overseas scheme, Rickerd said.
The man’s wife now faces losing her home, and his children are furious, Rickerd said.
The detective also has an open investigation into an alleged con of 87-year-old Paso Robles resident Mary Danaher, who claims she wired more than $8,000 last year to multiple people.
Danaher received a letter in July from a woman named Maria Duval who claimed to be a psychic and said that Danaher was going to receive money soon, according to a search warrant.
Danaher said Duval asked for $45 to continue assisting her with psychic readings, which Danaher sent.
A week later, Danaher received a letter in the mail telling her she won $18 million from Gold Rush Casino in Las Vegas, she said.
Danaher called a telephone number listed in the letter to claim her prize and a person claiming to represent Gold Rush told her she’d need to wire transfer money for taxes, fees and processing of her winnings, the warrant states.
Danaher told police she sent more than $8,000 to claim her purported winnings and talked on the phone with multiple people about how to send her money; she sent several transfers of less than $1,500 to people of different names.
But she never received her prize, and now police believe she was scammed.
The police requested the court order to access information from the wire transfer companies.
“I have a lead on a bank account opened in Las Vegas that’s tied to an address in Washington, D.C., but I expect that the address is a forwarding address to someplace else,” Rickerd said. “It’s often very difficult to get to the source.”
Rickerd said operators of scams will often pay someone to pick up the wire transfer for them who has no knowledge of the scam.
If police are able to track down that person, it’s difficult to prove their case if they can’t prove the person had knowledge of the crime.
The elderly are particularly susceptible to money-related schemes because when they were growing up a person’s word meant more, Rickerd said.
“It seems like nowadays, some people will say anything to get money,” he said.