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Grand Rapids couple loses $6K in scam

A scam artist routing his calls through Jamaica convinced a rural Grand Rapids couple to hand over more than $6,000 before a local post office worker became suspicious and called police.

A scam artist routing his calls through Jamaica convinced a rural Grand Rapids couple to hand over more than $6,000 before a local post office worker became suspicious and called police.

Even then, however, the couple ignored pleas from Itasca County Sheriff Pat Medure and tried to send another $4,500 to the scammer in recent days.

"They just didn't want to believe it was a scam," Medure said.

The elderly couple received a call recently that they had won $25 million and a new Mercedes car in a lottery or sweepstakes, but that they had to pay several fees before they could collect their prizes.

The first few calls from the scammer asked for smaller amounts of money, less than $250. He later increased the demands to $1,500, $2,500 and $3,000.

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The couple sent money, nine times in cash and money orders, to addresses in Texas, Illinois and Pennsylvania before the postal worker in Grand Rapids became suspicious.

"It was a great job by the postal worker. She told the gentleman to please go see me, and when he didn't, she followed up on her own and told me about it. So I went to his home and explained the scam," Medure said. "But he still tried to send more money Friday."

The scammer called the couple, in their 80s and 90s, eight times Thursday and six more times Friday morning. Medure intercepted one call, and has contacted the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension's new scam and fraud unit to investigate. The FBI could become involved, he said.

"But there's probably not much chance they will ever get their money back," Medure said. "There are probably a lot more victims out there that won't come forward, maybe because they are embarrassed."

Medure said the couple's son was called to try to prevent any further payments to the scammer.

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at jmyers@duluthnews.com.
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