An elderly Nanaimo couple lost nearly $400,000 after falling victim to a phony lottery scam.
According to the Nanaimo RCMP, the scam started in early 2021 when the couple, both in their late ’80s, answered a phone call from someone claiming to be from Reader’s Digest magazine.
The caller informed the couple that they had won $18.5 million and a brand new Mercedes-Benz in the Reader’s Digest Sweep Stakes Mega Millions lottery.
In order to receive the winnings, the caller informed the couple they must first pay some administrative fees — something the Reader’s Digest Canada’s website states is not required in order to receive a prize.
A few days later, Nanaimo RCMP say, the couple received official-looking documents in the mail from the U.S Internal Revenue Service or IRS. The documents indicated the couple owed taxes on their winnings and that they were directed to contact Reader’s Digest Mega Millions in order to arrange payment.
From this point forward, each and every week, the scammer would call the couple and instruct them to make payments by cash via money orders. The couple was told the payments were necessary for paying U.S. tax on lottery winnings and to cover the storage fees of the Mercedes-Benz. Bank.
Nanaimo RCMP says bank drafts were drawn and delivered by mail to various addresses. Throughout the year, the couple made cash payments totalling nearly $400,000.
Const. Gary O’Brien, media spokesperson for the Nanaimo RCMP, said the couple realized they had been scammed after officers, who were following up on another scam, became aware of them.
“Our members were actually following up on another scam which lead them to this couple. It was only then that they told us of the magnitude of their losses,” he said.
O’Brien called the couple’s financial loss one of the largest the city has ever seen.
“The financial loss the couple experienced is significant and is certainly one of the largest we have seen in Nanaimo. It also goes to shows that if fraudsters believe they have convinced you of their legitimacy, they will not stop until essentially there is no more money to give or you figure out it is a scam.”
Reader’s Digest Canada’s website states that winners of the lottery do not need to submit any money in order to claim their prize. The website also mentions various scams involving their lottery and provides letters the scammers use.
Reader’s Digest Canada recommends contacting the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC), a government agency that monitors and identifies marketing fraud across Canada, at 1-888-495-8501 should anyone call you that raises suspicions.