|Lucky or not, Smith's number keeps coming up|
“Congratulations! You are a lucky winner.”
Pauline Smith of Hampton was skeptical when she got the first call. A foreign-sounding voice dialed her number out of the blue telling her she had just won a Publisher’s Clearing House prize worth $450,000. It sounded too good to be true.
“They said the money would be delivered to me the next day, and of course nothing happened,” she recalled.
The man called back the next day, this time asking for information to help seal the deal. Smith didn’t bite, and kindly requested that he not call again.
Her number came up again a few days later when a another man told her she had won $8,000. She smelled something rotten and hung up.
Then came the big one. A smooth-talking fellow called asking if she recognized his voice. He kept teasing her for minutes, until she finally gave in and guessed a name. It was the wrong name, of course, but he continued on.
“He told me that my name had been drawn as the winner of a bunch of money plus a Mercedes Benz,” she said. “He had a pleasant personality and pleasant voice and talked like I should know him. I was fooled for a while and guessed a name, but the more I think about it that’s just a strange approach.”
As a 50-year owner of a plumbing and well drilling business in Hampton, Smith knows better than to give out any information over the phone, especially to someone she doesn’t know. She revealed nothing, and yet the calls kept coming.
Then another call came on July 16, the fourth one in five days. Same smooth-talking message, different technique. “You are a lucky winner,” a man said. By now she was losing her patience.
“I got so irritated I wasn’t even nice by that time,” Smith recalled. “They kept at me, but I said I didn’t believe it and hung up.”
The man called back again, then again, and yet again.
“I finally said, ‘I’m hanging up and please take my number off your list.’” The phone rang immediately, but she didn’t answer. “I hope it was him,” she laughed.
The phone kept ringing with promises of wealth. Smith had eight calls the next day and five more the day after that. One was from “the U.S. Claims Department” advising her that she had won $5.5 million. She was told to wear her best clothing the following day when a lawyer would come to her home and escort her to the bank. And, oh by the way, she’ll need to share some information to confirm her winnings.
“Money is the root of all evil,” she responded. “Take my name off your list. Good-bye.”
Smith is now wondering why her? Why so many calls at once?
“I think it’s because of my age,” she said, noting that she’ll turn 85 in November. “They must have some way of finding out your age in this day and age. It’s still scary. They know my address and reel off that information like they know who you are.”
Perplexed, and a bit alarmed that some sort of phone scam blitz might be targeting Hamilton County, Smith called the sheriff’s office and then Hamilton Telecommunications.
For the record, there is a way to put your name on a “Do not call” list. Businesses or individuals can register by logging on to www.donotcall.gov, or call 1-888-382-1222. There’s no guarantee that you’ll never be targeted by another scam, but it’s about the only defense mechanism available.
Be advised, however, as some ne’er-do-well scammers have been making phone calls claiming to represent the National Do Not Call Registry. It’s just another con.
“Evidently there is a lot of this going on,” Smith said. “It’s just crazy. They have their techniques and the next thing you know they are probably going after your savings or bank information. It’s scary to me.”
Just like my mama always told me, if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.
KURT JOHNSON can be reached at kjohnson@ hamilton.net