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SENIOR TARGETED IN LOTTERY SCHEME WOMAN LOSES $10,000 TO COUPLE OF CON ARTISTS.

Byline: Angie Valencia-Martinez Staff Writer

SIMI VALLEY - A 69-year-old woman was duped out of $10,000 after she fell for a lottery scam last week, prompting police to warn elderly residents to be aware of con artists.

Fraudulent lottery schemes tend to target senior citizens, promising a large share of nonexistent winnings for thousands of dollars up front, said Simi Valley police Sgt. John Adamczyk.

``If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,'' Adamczyk said. ``It's difficult to catch the (thieves) because by the time the victim realizes their money is gone, they're gone.''

In the latest case, Adamczyk said, a Latina was approached by two Spanish-speaking men hile shopping at Jo-Ann Fabrics. They asked her for directions to an immigration office and persuaded her to drive them there. En route, one of the men said he needed to obtain false citizenship papers in order to cash in a $300,000 lottery ticket, but needed to pay a $25,000 deposit in order to collect his winnings, police said.

The woman agreed to help when the man said he didn't have enough money, and she withdrew $10,000 from her bank account. She then drove to their bank and waited for an hour before realizing they had disappeared with her money, Adamczyk said.

The men are described as having average builds, and being between 40 and 50 years of age. Officials are asking anyone who may have been the victim of the scheme or who has information on the case to call the Simi Valley Police Department, (805) 583-6950.

Elder abuse is the fastest-growing crime in the county and there are various variations of the lottery scam, which is common.

Joan Virginia Allen, coordinator of the Financial Abuse Specialist Team in Ventura County, said she knows of an elderly woman who lost $250,000 in a lottery scam.

``If it's truly a prize, then there's never a charge for the prize,'' she said. ``They prey on seniors because they tend to be trusting.

``With the boomers coming up, that will be less the case. Our older seniors are very trusting. That's the way they were raised and they know that and take advantage of it.''

Allen said it's hard to keep statistics on the number of victims who fall for such schemes because oftentimes seniors are too embarrassed to report the crime.

Angie Valencia-Martinez, (805) 583-7604

angie.valencia(at)dailynews.com
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 21, 2005
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