TAMPA, Fla. – Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister and Attorney General Pam Bondi announced the results of a lottery scam investigation on Friday morning.
Chronister said the three suspects from the Orlando-area scammed and defrauded at least 12 women – 10 in Hillsborough County, one in Lake County and one in Polk County – out of $186,434. The total includes $152,034 in cash and $34,400 in jewelry.
"They would target elderly Hispanic females, approach them, let them know that they had entered the country illegally and needed assistance because they won the lottery and couldn't cash the ticket," Chronister said.
Chronister said the suspects would ask the victims for help cashing the fake lottery ticket in exchange from providing the financial resources that they'd normally get from the state of Florida.
One of the victims lost about $40,000, Chronister said.
Bondi said there are at least 14 victims.
"If you prey on victims – especially our seniors – you will be sorry," Bondi said. "Why do people prey on our seniors? Because they're vulnerable.
"We live in a population with a high senior number because they want to retire in Florida. They want to feel safe in Florida, and we are going to do everything we can to protect our seniors."
Bondi urged anyone who is a victim to come forward, even if the victim is concerned about his or her immigration status.
"You will be protected because you are a victim," Bondi said.
Friday also marks World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Bondi is offering information on common scams targeting seniors and how to avoid them.
The following tips can help seniors avoid common scams:
• Never give money, gift cards or personal information in response to an unwanted or suspicious solicitation.
• If someone claims to be law enforcement, a government representative, an employee of a utility company, or anyone calling in an official capacity, verify employment by ending the call and calling the entity directly.
• Keep checkbooks, debit cards and credit cards in a safe place. Never leave these items in view around the house, particularly if there are other people in the home to whom consumers have not entrusted their accounts.
• Write “request photo ID” on the signature line on the back of debit and credit cards.
• Consider using a banking institution that offers custodial accounts, wherein the bank collects the individual’s income and pays bills.
• Check account statements regularly to ensure there are no fraudulent charges or withdrawals.
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