An elderly widow is among the first victims to testify in the trial against one of 32 defendants in a Jamaican lottery scam case.
Edna Shmeets, 86, of North Dakota, USA says she lost over $300,000 in hopes of winning millions to help her family. She's one of at least 72 victims in the case, most of whom are elderly.
The defendants in the case are charged with sapping more than $5 million dollars from victims by requesting large checks to cover "taxes and fees" associated with an imaginary lottery prize.
The case is just the latest in a spate of scams targeting older people. As recently as February an Auckland man was jailed for a travel scam targeting elderly Chinese citizens.
Paul Swney, 46, would sign victims on for a heavily discounted two-week trip in America and tell them they'd be staying in a time-share property.
He would also create fake New Zealand Airlines itinerary for the non-existent trip. Over the course of three months he obtained over $40,000 from victims.
In April another scam was revealed to be targeting Auckland's elderly communities. This one consisted of school girls knocking on doors and pretending to raise money for a school trip.
The girls were reported to be between the ages of 10 and 13, and were also reported to have stolen valuables from some of the targets' homes.
Preventing and Avoiding Elderly Scams
Research shows that the elderly are far more susceptible to scams if they are lonely. Lonely people are grateful for human contact, even if it's with random strangers, and scammers know how to take advantage of this.
So the best way to prevent loved-ones from falling victim to elder scams, is to make sure they're not isolated.
Call and visit Mum and Dad regularly, and try to stay up-to-date on their finances and affairs.
It has also been noted that, even while the Internet seems like a fruitful ground for fraud, the most common point of entry by scammers into their victims' lives is still the telephone.
A warm voice on the other end of the line can go a long way to helping the con. So be wary when your loved-one reports having talked to a nice stranger recently.
Suspicion on the part of the victim is instant death for all scammers, so remain alert and think twice before giving money to causes without vetting them or asking someone you trust.