LAND O' LAKES, Fla. - The phone calls crippled the lines at Land O' Lakes High School and robbed a Pinellas retiree of her life savings.
The FBI says they are receiving 80 to 100 calls a week on these scams. Telemarketing fraud has gone high tech and agents say new twists on the old Nigerian scam are on the rise.
At Land O' Lakes High, trouble started with a single call two weeks ago. The man on the other end of the line identified himself as calling from a legal processing unit. The caller insisted on speaking with teacher Amy Anderson. Anderson said they wanted her social security number and she refused to give it to them.
Instead of seeking out another target, the calls kept coming. Over 2,000 in-bound calls shut down the school's phone lines for two days. Parents who needed to get messages to their children could not get through, and no one at the school could call out.
The FBI says while most don't fall for phone scams, consequences are devastating for some that do. The agency estimates that Lillian, who does not want her last name used, lost $170,000. It was all she had.
The retired General Motors supervisor took dozens of calls over five months. They convinced Lillian she simply needed to pay fees and taxes to claim her $5 million jackpot.
In the hour and a half we spent with Lillian, the "lottery" people called five more times. The FBI believes these con men are based in Jamaica. They use the internet, the mail and phone calls to convince consumers big money is theirs for a fee.
The phone calls have stopped at Land O' Lakes High. The FBI says it's unlikely they will find out who is behind it in either case.
The agency has partnered with a website where consumers will find information and can report telemarketing and other fraud. Find out more at www.lookstoogoodtobetrue.com .