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It sounds like a dream come true: "Congratulations, you've won $3 million." But for thousands of senior citizens, it's the start of a nightmare. They've been snared in the "Jamaican Lottery Scam" one of the biggest ever targeting seniors.
For Lynn Doescher of Webster, it cost her, her father and all of his money, more than $30,000.
Doescher says it started with either a letter or email to her dad, 83 year old Robert Wagner, from the "Megger Millions Lottery" saying that he'd won the jackpot. "The root of them getting your money is they tell you are going to need to pay tax on your winnings and they add the winning of a vehicle", said Doescher.
The request for tax payments came with phony letters from the IRS and FBI.
Lynn's dad complied with the scammers by sending money via untraceable Moneypaks bought at CVS or Walmart. The family found receipts in her father's Carmel, California home totaling more than $30,000.
Over several months, the scammers contacted Bob Wagner saying they needed more money to present his check. The calls came at all hours of the day and night. "There would be two calls, one was a man who would be very threatening" explained Doescher, "He seemed to follow the call from the woman. The woman who called had befriended him."
After about 3 months, unbeknownst to his family, Bob Wagner ran out of money and was very depressed. On the verge of eviction from his beloved home, Lynn's dad killed himself. "I think he just felt he couldn't live another day", said Doescher of her dad.
No one in the family or his friends knew how bad the scam had made his life.
Now, Lynn is determined to let others know about this scam in the hope of preventing someone else, like her dad, from becoming a victim.
She has reached out to members of Congress, and the State Attorney General. Congress has held hearings looking into the Jamaican Lottery Scam. In September, three Brooklyn men and a man from Jamaica were charged in connection with the scam. A federal prosecutor in Western New York says their arrests are related to a case involving an 83 year old Buffalo man. It's the same age Bob Wagner was when he took his life after being scammed out of all his money.