Fake Lotteries, Phony Jailings and Other Scams Target Petaluma Seniors

Petaluma residents have been scammed out of thousands of dollars. Police are warning residents to beware of calls asking for money.

Courtesy Better Business Bureau
Courtesy Better Business Bureau
A number of Petaluma seniors have been victimized in recent months by scammers claiming to be out-of-state lottery officials, relatives and potential friends from other countries.

The Petaluma Police Department is warning elderly residents–who are common targets for scammers–to be wary of calls asking for money.

Last week, the family of a 95-year-old Petaluma man came to police and said he had sent $124,000 to numerous locations after being told he had won an out-of-state lottery.

That man initially sent $9,000 in cash to Michigan after being told he had to pay taxes to collect his winnings, according to a Petaluma Police Department press release.

The man also sent cash to Florida; authorities in those states determined he was actually sending money to other scam victims, who were in turn depositing the money and wiring it out of the country. The scammer's phone numbers were traced to Canada, according to Petaluma police.

Late last year, a 67-year-old Petaluma man befriended a woman online. She requested money to travel from Ghana to the United States to meet him, and he sent her $4,000, Petaluma police said.

She asked for another $5,000 for immigration documents and $10,000 because she was stuck in customs in London; in all, the man sent $75,000 to a fake person in Ghana, police said.

In November, a 69-year-old Petaluma woman received a call from a person saying he was her grandson and was stuck in a Mexican jail and needed money to return home. The woman told police the caller "gave her a lot of personal information about her grandson," according to the press release.

The woman wired $15,000 to Mexico she believed was for his bail and a plane ticket home. When she didn't hear from him afterwards, she called her grandson and discovered it was a scam, police said.

Petaluma Police offered this warning:

"Residents should be suspicious of these types of phone calls. These suspects are constantly changing their methods to scam people. Residents can call the State Attorney General’s Office, Better Business Bureau, Adult Protective Services, or the their local police department to report suspicious activity. Family members of senior citizens should also make sure to educate their elderly parents or relatives and take steps to protect their finances."

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