An 81-year-old widow was targeted by scammers just two days after her husband passed away.
Christine “Kitty” Hansen received the first phone call in June and over the coming weeks her bank account was drained of $100,000.
The widow, from Wahpeton in the US state of North Dakota, told WDAY that she feels foolish and that they “caught her at a bad time.”
“I got a phone call and the guy said he was from Publisher’s Clearing House, and that I’ve won $2.6 million and I’ve been entering their contests for years, so I didn’t think anything about it,” Mrs Hansen told the news outlet.
But the elderly woman was told she could not receive her alleged windfall until she paid taxes on it.
Over the following weeks she was reportedly persuaded to send seven boxes of cash to addresses mostly in Florida.
Mrs Hansen’s family believes the thieves spotted her name after an obituary for her husband was shared online, Kare11 reports.
They believe the 81-year-old didn’t tell them about the calls because the scammers intimidated her, reportedly claiming the Internal Revenue Service would take away her home if she didn’t make the payments.
“She would never have spent money like that, they’re preying on her when she’s not even thinking straight,” the widow’s daughter Renee Anderson said.
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Not only did they take her life savings, according to a gofundme page set up by her daughter, she was also convinced to take cash advances on her credit cards, which has left her in debt.
The family said they didn’t have much hope of recovering the entire amount that was stolen, but had started the fundraising page to help the widow pay off that debt.