Police Report: Truckee senior loses $17K in lottery scam | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Police Report: Truckee senior loses $17K in lottery scam

Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily TribuneSouth Lake Tahoe firefighter Marty Creel, left, checks "accident" victim Holt Cawelti on Tuesday during a mass-casualty training exercise at the top of Ski Run Boulevard.

TRUCKEE – An elderly woman who lives at the Truckee Senior Center fell victim last week to a telephone fraud that conned her out of nearly $17,000, authorities said.

A man contacted the woman, who is in her 80s, and informed her that she won $500,000 in a lottery. She was told that in order to receive her winnings, she had to send multiple payments via moneygram to Bulgaria for customs clearance and tax purposes, according to a Truckee Police news release.

“Very little can be done for cases like this,” Truckee Police Sgt. Dan Johnston said in a phone interview. “This is a booming business and a booming problem.”

Police did not identify the victim of the telephone fraud.

After receiving phone calls for a week from the scammer, the victim contacted local police, who discovered that the phone number was a routing number and the concept was fraud, Johnston said in the release.

“This victim has no hope of ever recovering her money,” Johnston said. “When you start crossing international boundaries, the difficulty in tracing the suspect is enormous, because there is no cooperative law enforcement in certain countries.”

Adult Protective Services in Truckee said they talk to elderly individuals on a regular basis about financial fraud prevention.

“In this particular situation, we had no notice,” said supervisor Jeree Waller. “What we usually recommend to seniors is if they’re getting unwanted phone calls, invest in Caller ID so they don’t pick up unrecognizable numbers.”

While it is common for con artists to target the elderly, the majority of victims in Truckee are not seniors, Johnston said.

Another common scam is a buyer in Truckee attempting to purchase a vehicle over the Internet and being told to send money overseas in order for the vehicle to be shipped, Johnston said in the release.

“The vehicle never arrives, and the victims are usually out several thousand dollars,” he said.

Authorities advise Truckee residents to simply “hang up on these calls.”

“If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is,” Johnston said in the report. “There is no way to get your money back … and the likelihood of prosecution is very slim to none.”

— Fire investigators on Tuesday still were seeking the cause of a blaze early Sunday morning that destroyed most of the Chateau Inn & Suites in South Lake Tahoe.

“Evidence is going out to labs to get tested,” said South Lake Tahoe Fire Marshal Ray Zachau. “We’re trying to find the cause and origin in this.”

Zachau said that arson had not been ruled out.

The fire destroyed all three levels of the main building, where the inn’s rooms were housed, according to Brad Piazzo, South Lake Tahoe Fire Department division chief.

Three-quarters of the rooms were occupied at the time of the fire, which broke out around 3 a.m. at the motel at Park and Manzanita avenues. Firefighters fought the blaze for four hours before containing it.

No major injuries or deaths were reported, although there were two minor injuries.

– Jennie Tezak

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