"CANADIAN LOTTERY" SCAM IS ONE OF THE BIGGEST EVER,
COSTING MOSTLY ELDERLY VICTIMS BILLIONS OF DOLLARS,
REPORTS STEVE KROFT, ON SUNDAY'S "60 MINUTES"
Cruel "Closer" Describes How He Personally Talked People Out of Millions
The "Canadian Lottery" scam is a telephone con game that may be the most successful and cruel law enforcement has ever encountered, costing its mostly elderly American victims several billion dollars over the past few years. Steve Kroft reports on this scam and talks to one of its most successful -- and heartless -- practitioners on the 37th season premiere of 60 MINUTES, Sunday, Sept. 26 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
According to authorities, as much as $5 billion has been conned out of Americans, most of whom are elderly and whose names turn up on lists of people who enter mail sweepstakes. Smooth-talking con men then use the lists to contact vulnerable victims, telling them there is a sweepstakes prize waiting for them in Canada that will be delivered if they send or wire money to pay taxes on it. The ruse is centered on building the victims' trust over many phone calls and an oath of secrecy because the sponsors have not announced the winners yet. The scam has worked so well that Canadian law enforcement estimates that 67 percent of all the money coming into Western Union offices in Ottawa is from fraud.
Texas has been hit hard by the scam, says the state's attorney general, Gregg Abbott. "I've never seen a problem as serious as this before," he tells Kroft. "I've never seen anything where so many people have lost so much." A statewide public service ad against the scam is now running featuring Willette Miller, an elderly widow from Buchanan's Dam, Texas, who lost over $100,000, despite her banker's pleas to not send money.
Miller sent the money to a person like William Foley (not his real name) who talked with Kroft on condition of anonymity and because he's cooperating with authorities who arrested him. "I was the one who controlled [victims'] destiny. I was the one who could change their lives for them�make them happy," he tells Kroft. "I was one of the best there is in conning people out of their life savings over the telephone," says "Foley" in an interview in Montreal, where many of the scams originate "There is a perverse thrill in being able to do that to somebody." And with today's technology, it's easy for someone to get started and hard to get caught. "Calling card, pager and a cell phone, that's all you need�.It's the mobile version�much safer," he says of the telephone scam, in which the cell phones are discarded so authorities can't trace them to their users. Says "Foley," who has worked the scam for nearly a decade, "I would have to say 30 to 40, $50 million perhaps, I coaxed out of people's pockets."
So much money is involved that organized crime has come to play a crucial and lucrative role in the scam. When the victims' money comes from checks, organized crime will cash the checks, which are made out to phony names, in overseas banks and return the laundered money, minus a generous cut, to the scammers.