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Frank Gray

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Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette
Local resident John Klecka says he gets scam calls regularly.

Resident warns if prize too good to be true, pass it up

If scam artists are anything, they’re persistent.

Just ask John Klecka.

For nearly three years now, he’s been getting calls every week notifying him he’s won a bunch of money.

Sometimes the jackpots include a free car.

He’s been told he’s won millions of dollars from the Mega Millions jackpot. He’s gotten calls saying he’s won millions of dollars from Publishers Clearing House.

Even charities have started calling to let him know he’s been picked from a list of donors for a big prize.

All he has to do is pay some small fees to cover taxes or customs charges, usually $499 or so.

Klecka knows all the callers are scammers, but he doesn’t know why they keep calling him. He talked to one of the scammers too long one day, he says, so maybe that’s why they keep calling him back – because they think they will catch him off guard one day.

So far, it hasn’t worked. He says he just tells the callers to send the money along and then hangs up.

But they keep calling.

Klecka is particularly irked that the scammers have started using charities as a ploy. Someone called claiming to represent the Alzheimer’s Foundation, saying he had won some money.

He’s been getting calls from organizations representing veterans, soldiers killed in action and “any disease you can think of,” trying to scam him out of money, he says. It makes him mad.

He’s reported the calls to the FBI from time to time, but he says he’s been told only that it’s a scam and not to fall for it. He knows that. He just wishes the scammers would get caught once in a while.

The other day, though, something different happened. One of the scammers actually gave him a phone number and an address in Jamaica to send money to in order to collect one of the multimillion-dollar prizes that scammers keep offering. It was some place on Duke Street in St. James, a place that, according to one Internet blog, can be a rough area.

He was supposed to wire money there by Western Union.

Having an address and phone number, Klecka, thought, might be useful information. It might present an opportunity to nab one of the scammers.

Then there’s the grandma scam. Klecka was targeted by someone using that routine awhile back. That’s the scam where a caller claims to be the victim’s grandson or granddaughter and needs $2,500 to get out of jail in Canada or some out-of-the-way place.

Klecka hasn’t fallen for any of it.

Once, Klecka actually went to a store and asked about buying a cash card and explained why he wanted it. Scammers like these cash cards because once their victim tells them the serial number on the card, they can instantly access the money and never get caught.

In Klecka’s case, the store refused to sell one of the cards to him, which is good to know.

Otherwise, Klecka has survived the yearslong barrage of calls from scammers.

When Klecka contacted me, it was just to say that people needed to know all these scammers are out there. They’re milking everybody, Klecka said, and it’s the poor people who are desperate who might decide to take a chance and fall for the scam.

I told him I know, and that a lot of people have fallen for the scams and lost a lot of money in the process, but I was glad he hadn’t been taken.

But I’d put the word out, I told him.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.

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