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Scammed to Death – Literally

By Robert G. Yetman, Jr.Editor At Large

According to authorities, an 81-year-old U.S. man was essentially driven to suicide by a predatory Jamaican lottery scammer who relentlessly pursued him…and his money. Albert Poland, a patriarchal family man who was living out his Golden Years with his wife, Virginia, near Knoxville, Tennessee, had been suffering for some time from the effects of Alzheimer’s and dementia, and, sadly, became the victim of the vicious scammer who happily capitalized on his diminished capacity.

2015-10-12_12-38-27The caller would reach out to Poland, informing him that he would receive millions in awaiting prize money, but that in order to receive the dough, he had to first cut the IRS a check for the taxes. The tax amounts requested didn’t really make sense…$1500 against a promised million or so in payout, for example…but scammers like the one besieging Poland know such amounts are manageable for many retirees to access from savings.

The scam, of course, worked in such a way that Poland would be repeatedly called for more “tax money,” ostensibly on the basis that his winnings kept growing, and he would have to keep up with the taxes before the prize money would be his. Poland was already thinking of all of the ways he would spend the money; he was looking forward to paying off his son’s mortgage, and otherwise providing for family members in a variety of ways.

Eventually, the pressure of the calls, and the never-ending demands of more money, took their toll on what was often a confused old man. One day, when his wife was at church, Poland decided he could take no more, and retreated to his basement with a .38 revolver, where he shot himself. His suicide note was heartbreaking, imploring his family not to spend much on his funeral, and hoping that the eventual arrival of the millions of dollars would finally prove to them all he was right to have sent all that money.

Jamaican lottery scams…also called “876 scams” because of the area code from which the calls originate…have become such a problem that they are considered to be a “clear and present danger” to that country’s national security. Scammers from Jamaica go after about 300,000 Americans each year (most of them elderly, to what is surely no one’s surprise), and are successful in extracting roughly $300 million from them on an annual basis.

There are now investigators looking into Albert Poland’s case, but, for now, his scammer remains on the run.