Sweepstakes scams destroyed the life of Terry Liddell’s father. For the past three years, the man’s life has been unbearable. Not only has he lost all of his savings, but the stress of such a situation nearly destroyed his relationship with Terry.
“It’s about losing my father to a bunch of scammers,” Liddell said. “Somebody that I love and care about [being] taken advantage of like that, and mentally destroyed over money. They just took him to the cleaners every way they could.”
The terrible saga began when Oscar Liddell received a mailer telling him he’d won $3 million and a new BMW. Sometimes, sweepstakes ask that participants submit a photo, video or essay about the brand, products or services to increase the number of people interacting with the brand, thereby deepening the connection. This sweepstakes, though, said he had to pay fees and insurance to receive his grand prize. The thing is, legitimate sweepstakes never ask for money.
Liddell bought in. Then, he bought in again. And again. Over and over he continued to send money, hoping for the payout.
At the time, Liddell lived alone, and the widower’s son lived a distance away. The con artists starting mining his information, and right off the bat, found that he was lonely and vulnerable. They asked for a little bit of his family background, and within a week, they began calling up to six times a day and sending bags of mail, hoping to wring him out for literally all he was worth.
No one could get through to Liddell. His son tried to convince him that he was being conned, and when that didn’t work, his pastor, the sheriffs, and his accountant all tried, and failed.
Ultimately, the scammers took more than $100,000 from Liddell, and even isolated him from the outside world.
“They were then able to call his telephone carrier and change the passwords to his account, and they blocked all calls that were NOT coming from them, so he couldn’t contact his family,” U.S. Postal Inspector R. Ronald Mayhew Jr. said.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, any indication that a participant has to do anything with money is a sign of a scam, be it in the form of a money wire, or the deposit of a check sent by the scammers. Another indicator that a sweepstakes is really a scam is a lack of entry. People can’t win sweepstakes if they don’t enter. If a con artist claims a person has won a contest that they didn’t enter, it’s a scam.
“If anyone gets anything out of this interview, convince your elderly NOT to fall for the contest,” said Terry Liddell. “There is no prize. It’s a scam. They just want your money.”