MONTICELLO — Scammers nearly bilked a Piatt County resident out of $30,000 this week with a scheme that promised $4 million in sweepstakes money, prompting Monticello Police Chief John Carter to issue a warning to residents.
"In two cases, I had to go to the bank and talk to people ready to draw money out, and it isn't small amounts," Carter said. "One was for $30,000 and the other $900."
In those cases, the scam began as a phone call promising lottery or sweepstakes winnings in exchange for a cash advance.
Another scam asks residents to go to a Walgreens store and put money on a reloadable "green card." Carter said that resulted in a loss of $55 for one person this week.
"If they are asking for money, it's a scam," said Carter, who advised those receiving suspicious phone calls to "hang up the phone. Do not talk to them or stay on the line with the caller. If you haven't played the lottery or entered sweepstakes, you could not have won."
He said the sweepstakes callers are especially persistent. Carter said the scammer wanting $30,000 called the local resident repeatedly while they were in the bank — even after the police chief started answering.
"The phone kept ringing all night, and they were threatening me if I did not get to talk to her on the phone," he added. "And that was even after I identified myself as a police officer."
Another common scam that has re-emerged is one where a caller advises that a relative is arrested and needs bail money wired.
Carter said "callers or scammers requesting bail money for a relative is not legitimate, as one should be able to receive a call directly from their relative asking for bail money."
Other scammers are claiming to be everything from the FBI and IRS to Treasury agents and the news media.