By Doug Oakley
Bay Area News Group East Bay
An 80-year-old Berkeley man who was scammed out of $53,000 by Canadian con artists got $15,000 of it back after he contacted authorities.
The man, who Berkeley police and federal investigators in the U.S. and Canada are not naming, first sent a check for $38,000. Then the con artists demanded he send another $15,000. He sent the second check, but then decided to contact police who intercepted the check in the mail.
No arrests have been made.
Finding the check in the mail was aided by Berkeley police and U.S. and Canadian federal agents working on a joint operation to combat telemarketing fraud, said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Lori Haley.
Involved in the joint operation were the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian Security and Investigation Services.
A statement from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said a man from Quebec called the Berkeley man and told him he won seventh prize in a sweepstakes, but first he needed to send money to pay the taxes on the prize, which the victim promptly did.
The statement said con artists often pose on the telephone as sweepstakes or lottery officials, relatives, lawyers, government representatives, police officers and accountants.
Anyone suspecting such a crime can call 888-495-8501 or go to www.phonebusters.com.
Doug Oakley covers Berkeley. Contact him at 510-843-1408. Follow him at Twitter.com/douglasoakley