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If it's to good to be true, it probably is


7:15am 15th December 2011

Thirsk police are warning residents of a scam that appears to be ‘too good to be true’.

Officers are appealing for residents to be on their guard after an 85-year-old woman from Sowerby was targeted by scammers last week.

Luckily, she saw through the fraud and contacted the police without handing over any cash.

The scam originated with a phone call from a man who gave his name and claimed to be from the legal department of 5 Madison Avenue, New York City. He also gave a telephone number of 02033186746, which didn’t work when officers tried to ring it back.

The caller held a lot of the victim’s personal details and stated the nature of the call was to inform the victim that she had won £150,000 after being drawn second in a sweepstake which she entered some time ago.

The caller then stated that United States Custom and Excise would be in touch once the prize money had been cleared to leave America, before hanging up.

A few days later a further call was made to the victim, this time from a man claiming to represent US Customs and Excise confirming that the £150,000 had indeed been cleared to be sent overseas provided 1.75% tax was paid on it, under US Government legislation.

He stated that the US Government will only accept cash and the tax must be paid before the prize money can leave the country.

A short time later, the original caller from New York got in touch saying that he was aware that US Customs had authorised the release of the funds and a courier would call at the victim’s home on a certain date, with a banker’s draft for £150,000. The courier, however, would only hand over the money when he received the tax payable on the winnings, which amounted to £2,500.

The caller then encouraged the victim to visit the bank and have the cash ready for the courier to collect.

When the victim said that she was unable to get hold of the funds, the caller became pushy and tried to persuade her that she should be able to get the money from somewhere, baring in mind the sum that was due to her.

This is a fairly elaborate scam which officers would like residents to be aware of, so they aren’t tempted to part with any money.

PC Adam Gatenby, of Thirsk police, said:

“Fortunately, the scammers didn’t get any money from the elderly victim, as she clicked when they called about handing the money over and she told them she wouldn’t be giving them anything.

“The caller became stroppy at this point before hanging up and the courier didn’t arrive on the date specified.

“The victim is adamant that she has never entered a sweepstake and it certainly sounds like a scam, as what sort of prize do you have to pay thousands of pounds to receive?

“I would urge people to be aware that this scam is happening and if you are called by anyone you think is suspicious contact the police or Crimestoppers as soon as possible.”

If you receive any suspicious calls, please contact the police on 101 and select option 2.


Alternatively, Crimestoppers can be contacted, anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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