Pharr Elderly Woman Loses Money to Phony Sweepstakes

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PHARR – A Hidalgo County woman said she fell victim to a phony sweepstakes even though her gut instinct told her not to do it.

Pharr resident Flo Crouch said she regrets voluntarily handing over nearly a quarter of $1 million on a fake promise.

In January, a man contacted Crouch telling her she won second place in a sweepstakes and would receive $900,000 dollars. In order to claim her prize, she needed to pay “fees and taxes” coming to a compared low price of $15 dollars.

It was a matter of days before another call. This time, the man on the other end told her she won first place by default after the current winner was disqualified.

But Crouch said a larger reward, meant more money up front. She was willing to pay the fees in order to get the grand prize.

After numerous transactions and payments over nearly nine months, Crouch still hasn’t received any money. She said she didn’t feel right about the reward from the initial call.

“I could hear other people in there. I said ‘You guys sound like a bunch of crooks. How come it's so busy?’” she questioned.

The response from the other side of the line, “Oh well this is a busy place."

A Pharr police officer told the 88-year-old not hand over any money. But Crouch said she failed to listen thinking she would lose out on a great deal.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS found out Crouch isn't alone. According to the Hidalgo County Sheriff Eddie Guerra, the department has seen an increase in senior fraud cases.

For that reason, agencies across the county are set to receive additional training to handle those scenarios. 

Guerra said the department was one of eight nationwide selected to receive law enforcement training on “financial crimes against seniors” by the U.S. Department of Justice.

He said looking into these reports takes a different approach due to the age and vulnerability of the victim.

"When you're dealing with the elderly, the interview tactics have to be a little different because a lot of times the sequence of events is not clear. A lot of times they don't want to come into the sheriff's office, they don't want to go to the district attorney's office," he said. 

Guerra said in addition to training, his deputies, other police agencies, and district attorney office personnel will also receive support and additional material from the DOJ.


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