An Oahu woman is left picking up the pieces after losing $30,000 in an elaborate sweepstakes scam.
The woman says it all sounded too good to be true at first, but she says the scammer convinced her otherwise.
She wants to share her story so others don’t become a victim.
Barbara Porter, 79, is a semi-retired accountant. Her life changed on June 27.
“I received a phone call telling me that I won $2.5 million and a Mercedes Benz,” Porter said.
Porter told the caller she wanted to donate a portion of her winnings to her church, but in order to get the money, she needed to pay $160,000 in taxes.
So she gave up the car, which was valued at $100,000, leaving her with a tax bill of $60,000.
“Every day, with the exception of two, for every phone call, two or three phone calls every day, for almost two full months,” Porter said. “He was so sincere, I honestly, honestly believed him. I got to know this man, his family, children, everything about him. He was a big person in his church.”
Porter said the man even convinced her he would chip in $30,000 of his own money if she came up with the other half.
“Long short of it was I did. I cashed out my IRA, most of it, and sent them the $30,000,” Porter said.
But it didn’t end there. Porter was told she would be presented with a $2.5 million check in person on Saturday, Aug. 19.
“He called, finally, at 3:30 in the afternoon. ‘Okay, we’re ready. We’ll meet you at the bank.’ I said, ‘It’s Saturday. The bank’s closed at 3.’ ‘Oh, we thought it would be open until 5.’ I said no, they’re closed, but I said my bank will be open at 8 o’clock tomorrow morning. ‘Oh okay, fine.’ I never heard from him again,” she recalled.
For nearly two months, Porter had been making plans to give the money to her church and her family.
“I couldn’t sleep. I was making list after list after list of how much I was going to give this (person). What hurts me more than missing that money was all the people I was going to give this money to,” she said.
Porter says while the experience has left her numb, she’s sharing her story to help others.
“Something’s nagging at you, too good to be true, but I was thinking look at all these things I can do with it,” she said. “I’m trying not to hold that hate in me or anything like that. I’m putting it in God’s hands and saying I know you’ll take care of it somehow, some way, so that’s a little bit of where my vengeance might be.”
Porter did file a police report, but she says she’s given up hope of trying to get her money back.