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Scam Could Cost Couple Everything
- Mid-South couple loses nearly $30K to sweepstakes scam
- Nationwide, FBI says scam cost Americans $47.5 million last year
- Experts say promised payoff is an empty one
(Luka, MS 12/16/2010)
They believed they won riches.
Instead, a Mid-South family is on the verge of losing everything.
They're victims of a sweepstakes scam.
The FBI has warned about these sweepstakes scams, and so have the WREG On Your Side Investigators.
The scam is simple.
If you wire money to an account, your told you'll receive millions of dollars you won.
But as the Dean family has learned, that promise to pay is an empty one.
Jane Dean feels she's lost control of her life.
"It's been a nightmare," said Dean. "We haven't had any peace in our house since this started."
The stress of the last 11 weeks is obvious.
"We'll get through this hon," said Dean's husband Jackie, trying to reassure her. "Just be strong hon."
Dean and her husband have pawned jewelry, guns, anything of value.
The title loans on their cars are two of 30 lines of credit the couple has taken since the phone rang September 29th.
LINK TO VIDEO
"The gentleman that I spoke to said I had won $2.5 million and a Mercedes car," explained Jackie Dean.
There was a catch.
Jackie Dean had to wire money to cover taxes on his winnings.
It was the first of 52 cash transfers sent by Dean.
Receipts show Dean has wired $27,880.21 to accounts worldwide since late September.
"You're joking?" asked Dean when he told him the total. "You sure you added that right? I didn't think I sent that much."
The Deans have sent so much, the family's phones now ring constantly.
50 To 100 times a day the family gets calls promises riches.
After working for 30 years and raising four kids, Dean explained he couldn't ignore the dream of becoming a millionaire.
"I wonder what it'd feel like to go somewhere and wouldn't have to worry about what you've got or how much money it would cost," Dean said.
So he kept sending, and kept believing.
"They always had another excuse," Dean said of the scammers' demands. "I was crazy enough to believe it."
WREG On Your Side Investigators were there when one of the crooks called.
The caller identifies himself as Mr. Clark.
He tells Jackie Dean that he's one payment away from getting his winnings.
"There's no way I can get $1,000 sir," Dean told the caller. "If I could, you know I would."
"It makes no sense, you already spent so much money," explains Mr. Clark. "Then, just turn your back on it."
The caller explains that Dean has to pay the money as a penalty for sending cash to someone else.
"I sent $200 to somebody I wasn't supposed to," explained Dean after hanging up the phone. "They charged me. That's in the company rules."
They're rules Dean has never seen.
There's a good reason for that says Sheriff Glenn Whitlock of Tishomingo County.
"As sure as I'm sitting here and you're standing there, it's a scam," says the sheriff.
It's tough to shut down says Whitlock.
He believes the Deans have fallen victim to an organized crime ring.
Who, and where they are remains a mystery.
"It's like a dog chasing its tail when you go to doing this," said Whitlock. "It's been routed round and round and round so many times that you cannot track it down."
That means Dean's money is likely gone.
The couple planned to repay the money borrowed from friends with their winnings.
"That hurts me so bad because we can't pay them back," said Jane Dean breaking down into tears.
Jackie Dean hasn't given up.
As an ordained minister, he says he's a man of faith.
"I've definitely won money somewhere," insisted Dean. "I don't know where, but I definitely have some money somewhere.
"Why haven't you seen it, Jackie?" asked WREG On Your Side Investigator Scott Noll.
"That I don't understand," admitted Dean.
Dean's case has been referred to the FBI.
The most important rule to remember is if a sweepstakes wants you to pay anything up front, it's bogus.
- Just hang-up, or delete the e-mail.
- Once you start communicating with them, they'll spread your contact information to other scammers.
6:47 p.m. CST, December 16, 2010