MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBS 2) — It’s the season of giving, but con artists are making the most of the generosity of seniors by scamming them out of thousands of dollars.

On Wednesday, CBS 2’s John Slattery spoke with one clever woman who didn’t fall for it.

Nora Coniglio was thrilled when she got a phone call saying she’d won second prize in the Publishers’ Clearing House Sweepstakes.

“You have a prize of $285,000. I said, ‘What? Me?’” Coniglio said.

But there was a catch. First, she needed to send in 1 percent to pay the taxes.

“That they want money from me, $2,850,” Coniglio said.

But she had the good sense to not fall for it, after calling her son.

“He said, ‘this sounds like a scam,’” Coniglio said.

Targeting seniors comes in a variety of forms — by phone, by mail and by e-mail.

“Don’t give your e-mail address. Don’t give your Social Security number, your date of birth,” Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said.

Rice said those numbers can be used to open credit cards in your name. She said scammers also prey on seniors by claiming their grandchild needs bail money.

This scam-by-mail offered $50,000, with a first payment of $2,980, if you pay the tax of $2,800.

The late Mike Tierney of Oceanside, who was told he won $26 million, was scammed out of $240,000 before he realized it was a fraud.

“If you get a check in the mail, rip it up. If you get a phone call asking for personal information, hang up your phone,” Rice said.

Investigators said the problem with many of these cases is they’re hard to prosecute, largely because most of the scams are based in foreign countries.

In Nassau County, seniors this year have reported to prosecutors twice the number of frauds as last year.


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