Alberta senior scammed out of $250K over 10 months after U.S. sweepstakes letter

Lethbridge police are warning people after an 81-year-old Alberta woman lost $250,000 to scammers over a 10-month period following what started as an attempt to claim a bogus U.S. sweepstakes prize.

'Her name and telephone number were shared amongst other fraudsters, which is very typical,' say police

Police warn that fraudsters are pretending to be banks or CRA officials in order to gain personal information and, ultimately, your money. (Getty Images)

Police in Lethbridge, Alta., are warning people after an 81-year-old woman lost $250,000 to scammers over a 10-month period. 

Acting Sgt. Paolo Magliocco said the woman initially got a letter indicating she'd won a U.S. sweepstakes prize from the Bank of America, but that in order to claim her prize she needed to send money to pay taxes.

But the requests for money kept coming, and the woman was paying thousands on a weekly basis to mulitple scammers.

"Her name, ultimately, and telephone number were shared amongst other fraudsters, which is very typical. We see this very often. And so she fell victim to several other types of scams as well," he said.

"And at that point, she'd been sending certainly more money than what she had been saving before."

Magliocco said one of the scams was the Canadian Revenue Agency phone scam.

Last fall, a CBC Marketplace investigation found that at least 60,000 Canadians had complained to the federal government about the CRA scam in the five years prior.

Magliocco said the senior's family now finds itself in a difficult financial position. 

"I'm sure as an 81-year-old that is on undoubtedly fixed income, this is one difficult dollar amount to lose, for sure," he said, adding that police aren't aware of anyone in the Lethbridge area losing this much money in a scam in recent years. 

Since this incident, the woman's family has stepped in to take a bigger role in her finances, said Magliocco.

"Ultimately, with elderly people, they are far more vulnerable than other people. And anytime families can play a bigger role to help monitor finances and that sort of thing, we would certainly recommend that," he said.

Be extra vigilant, warn police

In a warning to all Albertans, Magliocco said police tend to see more scams around tax season. 

"It's important that members in our community are extra vigilant and that they're aware scamming is happening," he said. "It's happening in all areas of our country."

He recommends that people do not release personal information over the phone, text message or email to anyone they don't know.

"If you are going down a road where you might be releasing some money to someone that you don't know, we recommend that you speak to family or speak to police," Magliocco said. 

"Because if you do that, most the time we do find that you'll be made aware that it's likely a scam, and it may save you some money."


Lucie Edwardson


Lucie Edwardson is a reporter with CBC Calgary. Follow her on Twitter @LucieEdwardson or reach her by email at


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