Family loses $1,200 in scam

A Homer man is warning people not to be taken in a phone scam in which he lost $1,200 for a “bond” to claim a $550,000 sweepstakes prize. Although the man suspected the phone call was bogus, he said he took a gamble and last week and wired three $400 payments through Western Union to accounts in Jamaica. The scam artists said they would meet the man at Wells Fargo bank, but never showed up, and he realized he had been taken.

“We’re kind of embarrassed we fell for it,” the man said, who asked that his name not be used. “Our main concern now is to keep it from happening to other people.”

Homer Police Chief Mark Robl said he had not heard of this particular scam. Police have investigated six credit card fraud cases this year involving use of a person’s credit card over the Internet without that cardholder’s knowledge. In general, Robl advised against participating in phone scams in which people are asked to pay fees to claim prizes.

Robl did hear of another Internet scam in Kenai in which a person claiming to be a computer service technician tells the victim to log on to a website to fix a computer problem. When the victim does that, the “technician” takes control of the victim’s computer and then demands a fee to keep the computer hard drive from being wiped out. 

In one case, a victim called Kenai Police while on the line with the scam artist, and a police officer came to the home and pulled the plug on the Internet connection.

The Federal Trade Commission has a web site with advice on prize offer scams. Visit www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0199-prize-offers.

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