3 On Your Side
3 On Your Side

Woman discovers elderly mom swindled out of at least $70K

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Eileen thought she had won the lottery but was instead scammed out of around $70,000. (Source: KPHO/KTVK) Eileen thought she had won the lottery but was instead scammed out of around $70,000. (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
Heather Holmes couldn't believe how much money her mother was scammed out of. (Source: KTVK) Heather Holmes couldn't believe how much money her mother was scammed out of. (Source: KTVK)
Eileen had a box of receipts from all the wire transfers she completed for the scammers. (Source: KTVK) Eileen had a box of receipts from all the wire transfers she completed for the scammers. (Source: KTVK)

Heather Holmes can only shake her head when she looks at the incredible amount of junk mail her mom gets. 

“This is one week,” Heather said as she held a large pile of paperwork and mailings in her hand. “One week of stuff that my mom gets."

What kind of stuff? Well, official looking documents saying her mom has won $4.3 million or even $9.7 million. It's just the kind of junk mail that has her 74-year-old mom named Eileen Holmes in huge financial trouble.

That's because Eileen believed she won all that money and started calling the numbers in those mailings to collect her big payout. 

"The bottom line is she thought she was going to get $2 million and a brand new Mercedes. Even the day I got here, she said it was being delivered the next day," Heather remembers her mom telling her.

Heather hopped on a plane recently and flew all the way from Philadelphia down here to the Valley because she felt her mom was involved in something.

She was concerned even more when family friends and neighbors of the elderly woman called Heather and also said something seemed to be a little off with her mom.

When Heather arrived, she discovered Eileen's bank account had been wiped out. She was four months behind on rent and about to be evicted. Her mother even took out a title loan on her paid-off Nissan, a loan with a whopping 108 percent interest rate by the way.

And to make matters worse, Heather says she discovered her mom has very little jewelry left these days because she pawned it most of it. Heather recalls the jewelry was thick, beautiful gold necklaces and bracelets that her mom had purchased. Much of the jewelry came from visiting Italy. 

"Oh, at least $30,000 to $40,000 in jewelry," Heather told 3 On Your Side when asked how much the jewelry was worth.

In all, Heather says her mom Eileen is probably out a total of around $70,000. It’s money she spent trying to collect on that bogus lottery.

Heather says her mom started calling the phone numbers to those so-called lottery officials about a year ago and eventually developed a close relationship with one particular man who said if this retired school teacher wanted the lottery winnings, she would have to keep wiring him money. 

She even purchased iPhones for the man and his team of scammers. 

"I was told that if I sent money out to these different people in the U.S., that I would win $3 million or $5 million, so (I did)," Eileen said.

To keep the scheme going, the scammer would sometimes have Eileen speak with other people who portrayed themselves as being with the Federal Reserve System, the Internal Revenue Service and even the Federal Bureau of Investigations.  Eileen tells 3 On Your Side it all seemed so real and legitimate.

However, just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, it does. 

During our visit, Eileen left the room and came back with a grocery bag full of Money Gram and Western Union receipts from all the wire transactions and money she sent over the last year to these scammers. 

She pulled wads of receipts out of the bag that eventually became a large pile on her ottoman. At this moment, Heather buried her face into hands and could only shake her head in disbelief because she realized just how involved her mother was involved with this scam. 

“I’ve already showed you some of these receipts,” Eileen told her daughter. 

“Yeah, you showed me 'some' receipts,” Heather said. “I didn’t know you had a whole bag full of them.”  

Some of the wire transfers were for hundreds of dollars and others were for $1,200 or more. And some wire transfers have on the same days. 

"Now, that I look back at it, it was stupid of me to do that, but I got caught up in it," Eileen told 3 On Your Side.

Heather says she can’t believe her mom became a victim like this.  

“This is one of the hardest things I've ever seen in my life. You do not expect it to happen to your parents," she said.

To stop the scam from getting further out of control and to help her mom from losing more money, Heather says she took action. 

First, she changed her mother's phone number and other information so the scammers wouldn’t be able to contact her anymore. 

According to Heather, phone records reveal the scammers would call her mom up to 50 times a day. 

Heather said even when she arrived from Philly to see her mom, the phone would ring constantly.  

“I can tell you I had to unplug the phone because before I changed her phone number, the phone was ringing non-stop from 8 in the morning until 10 at night."

As for Eileen, she now realizes she was duped and says she feels terrible about it. 

"Well, it breaks my heart that it's (money) gone. But, it's gone. I cried for several days, but it's gone," Eileen said.

Heather is now concerned that her mother’s financial loss might even exceed $70,000, the amount she first thought. 

The FBI doesn’t have the resources to investigate every internet or lottery scam unless the amount is sizable.  In this case, 3 On Your Side has forwarded Eileen’s information over to the agency in hopes it gets involved considering the amount of money that has been swindled.

If there is an update, 3 On Your Side will let you know.

Copyright 2016 KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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