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Farmington woman falls victim to scammers

5 mins read
The main page of the online sweepstakes website Prize Grab. A fake version of the website was allegedly used to scam a Farmington woman out of $375.

FARMINGTON – A local woman who was contacted through Facebook that she had won a new car and a big cash prize ended up losing $375 before she figured out it was a scam.

“I thought it was legit,” explained the 30-year-old Farmington resident who didn’t want her name used for this story, but she wants to protect others from falling for the scam. “I want people to be aware of it. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone,” she said.

Four days ago, she was on Facebook and received the news through instant messaging that she had won a 2017 Range Rover and $500,000 in cash from the online sweepstakes website Prize Grab. She was congratulated on winning the “bonus prize” by a woman claiming to be the general manager of Prize Grab. The victim would later learn that it wasn’t the real site’s representative who had contacted her.

But, before she could receive her prize winnings, the Farmington resident was told she needed to send $100 “for shipping and handling.” A man who identified himself as “Mr. Anderson” told her to send the $100 through a money order company addressed to Rajeif Sankar or Alrick Johnson at 14 King Street in Jamaica. “Mr. Anderson” also instructed her take a picture of the receipt and give the confirmation number of the money order check to him once it was sent.

In other phone calls, the Farmington victim, who is on Social Security Disability, was told “Mr. Waldo” is an FBI agent and will ensure the security of the transaction. She then received notice supposedly from the Internal Revenue Service that she needed to pay an additional $650 in tax fees for the prizes she’s won.

She sent another $275 after she was told she could pay the total in installments if she didn’t have the entire $650 available. She also ended up giving the scammers some of her personal information, including her photo ID.

“I gave it to them because I thought it was legit,” the victim said on Tuesday. They had told her Prize Grab had been in operation for nine years. The male caller had an accent but spoke very good English. “He would get very mad and was very pushy,” she said when she started to hesitate and ask questions.

On Monday night she researched the Prize Grab site and realized the scammers had just copied the real site to pull in victims to scam them. She found out that the real website doesn’t initiate contact with those interested in trying for a prize. Instead, those wishing to participate submit their name and address to be entered into the sweepstakes.

“Last night at 2 a.m. I realized it was a scam. I had never had this happen before; I’d never won anything before. They made it sound real,” she said.

She called the Farmington Police Department and the FBI to inform them of the scam. She confronted the scammers once she had figured out that they were just out to steal her money, but that didn’t stop them from calling and harassing her.

“Just today alone they’ve called me 55 times,” she said. “They keep calling and they scream at me. They keep asking for more and more.”

The Maine Attorney General’s Office has listed a number of different types of scams and common traits they may share that should raise a red flag if encountered. The page can be found here.

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