N.S. lotto winners scam continues to circulate
Con artists sending potential victims CBC story to convince them to send money
Con artists claiming to be a lottery-winning Nova Scotia couple are continuing to draw victims around the world, three years after the original scam surfaced.
Violet and Allen Large won the lottery in July 2010, but the couple gave away nearly all of their $11.2 million to charities and families.
Not long after, emails surfaced from an unknown sender claiming to be the couple. In it, it says the Large family will share their fortune with the recipient if they send a small amount of money first. The email also included a link to a CBC News version of the story online.
Grady Mercer almost became the scam's latest victim.
Mercer lives in Colorado and until this week, he hadn't heard of Violet and Allen Large. Then he received an email.
"When I saw the link, that's what made me think that it was maybe real, for some reason," Mercer told CBC News in an interview.
"It's a really good story. But when I called, that's when I found out. So it'd be easy to be fooled by it."
Fortunately for Mercer, he contacted CBC News instead of the people who sent the email. They were trying to convince him some of the lottery winnings were up for grabs.
Mercer is not alone.
The opening lines of the email read:
My wife Violet and I Allen Large won 11.3M USD in a lottery 6-49 in July 2010 and we have decided to donate the sum of 2M USD to you. Respond to this email for more details. You can verify our story by visiting the web page below.
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, the police agency which tracks fraud, received its first complaint about a scam using Allen and Violet Large's names in October 2011. That call came from Markham, Ont.
So many people receive the email that the CBC News story is often one of the most-viewed stories on the website, nearly three years after it was initially published.
Daniel Williams, of the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, said the Large scam is really just a variation on the old West African fraud emails, which tell people they can share in a vast fortune if they just pay a small fee or provide personal financial information.
"Usually what the bad guys do is pull up real information that they've culled from the internet and just change some contact information," Williams said. "When you're replying to them, you're going straight to the gang."
Williams said since that initial complaint, there have been at least 13 more. Of those, three people were actually convinced they could share in the Larges' fortune.
"Sadly, you know, they're in fine company," Williams said. "Bill Gates' name is used; any and everyone else who you can look up and find is actually connected or was connected to money, I guarantee you their name is being used to some degree by the bad guys."
Mercer did exchange emails with the scam artists. All he got in return was an email including pictures of Violet and Allen Large. By that time, he'd grown suspicious.
"It's very unfortunate and it's kind of sad to know that someone's trying to pull a scam like that," Mercer said.
Allen and Violet Large spoke out when the scam was initially discovered, saying they were disgusted their names were being used for wrongdoing.
Violet Large died in 2011.