We had just finished watching "American Pickers." Mike and Frank had bought some circus posters for a few hundred dollars and later resold them for $5,000 each. Not wishing to be rip-off artists, they returned to the man who had sold them to them and voluntarily shared their profit with him.
The time was approximately 7:52 p.m. when we got a call from Kingston, Jamaica. The male caller identified himself as "Mr. Washington," planting the idea he was a just, sincere, virtuous fellow, first in the hearts of his countrymen. He had good news for Miss Dorothy. He had a certified check for $2.5 million and a Mercedes automobile which she had won in a mega-millions lottery. He told her all she had to do to claim her prizes was send him a certified check, handling fee, and a young lady from Las Vegas would appear at her door to deliver the prizes.
Apparently this scam has been ongoing for years. People who Google this line of bull have learned that Mr. Washington, Mr. Jefferson or whomever he calls himself at the moment is a far cry from the American Pickers or George Washington. The caller, Mr. Washington, has succeeded in getting some people to wire him money via Western Union and no prizes have been forthcoming.
It is only natural for some folks to fall for this pitch because we all like to be winners. Americans enter sweepstakes all the time, but remember you cannot have a lucky day if you don't play, and you do not pay to claim a prize if you do enter a legitimate contest.
There are big differences between legitimate sweepstakes and fraudulent ones. If you have to send money or pay shipping and handling fees, the sweepstakes is probably not legitimate.
Targets of Mr. Washington and his associates have posted their experiences on the Internet. One target said, "I have been getting these calls for months. They use different names and numbers. I have had Michael Fairbanks and James Carter ask me to send them $200 to win $1.5 million."
Another victim advises, "Got a call from David of Gold Rush Sweepstakes. He wants me to call back as soon as possible because I have won the sweepstakes."
A third individual reported, "I lost $850 after being sweet-talked by a woman who claimed to be a Christian, as she promised delivery of $3.5 million and a Mercedes."
One irate individual said, after being taken, "It's just criminals stealing money. People like this should be put in jail."
A lady who was told she won $5.5 million asked the caller how this was possible when she did not enter a sweepstakes. The caller told her that her name was entered by her power company because she paid her bills on time. She was to send a fee and call a Las Vegas number she was given to claim her prize.
You probably don't know my spouse, but she is a lady who didn't fall off a turnip truck! When her call came, she knew immediately she was not dealing with Mike and Frank, or the Father of Our Country. She quickly told "Mr. Washington" she was not interested in his $2.5 million or his Mercedes, and to take her off his calling list!
Remember, it was P.T. Barnum who said, "A sucker is born every minute." Please don't be one of them.
Jack Simpson is a former educator, veteran, author and a law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday.