Imagine how $2.5 million could change your life. That's what a local man was doing. In fact, he called his financial adviser looking for guidance. That's when he learned... instead of winning money he was actually losing it.
Merrill Harper tells us, "The guy was so slick. He had perfected his game so well that he had me believing there actually was $2.5 million."
Merrill Harper who's 81, said he received dozens of persuasive phone calls from Kingston, Jamaica. A man using the name John Edwards convinced Merrill he was flying to Colorado Springs to give him a big check for winning the Worldwide Lottery.
Edwards says, "I'm going to be meeting you today, my brother. I promise you that, okay?" "You going to meet me today with $2.5 million?" "that's right!"
The only thing standing between Merrill and the dough: two fees -an administrative charge for $3,500 and $7,500 for the I.R.S.
Merrill did as Edwards instructed, getting two cashier's checks for a total of $11,000 and overnighting them to a small town in Mississippi.
But Edwards claimed there were complications, so he asked Merrill to also make an $11,000 bank transfer from Ent, his credit union in Colorado Springs to a colleague of Edwards whose account was at Region's bank in Mississippi.
Edwards goes on to say, "You just take care of that small business and keep our business between me and you and you will be the beneficial person of everything. Remember I'm here, so there's no need for you to be in fear, okay?"
Merrill contacted his financial adviser and then I was called.
My first step; calling Ent Federal Credit Union. Its loss prevention team quickly went to work, canceling Merrill's checks, keeping him from losing a dime.
Jim Moore with Ent says,"A check had been issued, it had not been fully processed and presented to us for payment so we were able to stop that payment and relay that back."
Merrill adds, "It was close, I tell you. If we hadn't gotten Ent in here to do what they did in that little short timeframe, it would've been too late. I learned a good lesson, a very good lesson."
Regions Bank in Mississippi thanked us for stepping in and is now investigating. I'm told the bank account Merrill was supposed to use was probably opened by another victim, who was promised a job for processing payments.
We all can learn from Merrill's story. Just remember, lottery winners never have to pay upfront fees and the I.R.S. doesn't require immediate payment either. Uncle Sam lets you pay taxes at the end of the year or allows the lottery commission to withhold what you owe. Either way it doesn't work the way this crook claims.
And you can't participate in lotteries which take place in other countries unless you're there at the time.
Finally, you can't win a contest if you didn't enter it.