Elderly Copperas Cove couple scammed out of more than $40,000, warn others
By BRITTANY FHOLER
When Mary and Bill Eye of Copperas Cove received a phone call over a month ago telling them they had been selected as the next winner of $3.5 million and a new car from Publishers Clearing House, they were excited.
The man on the other end of the phone identified himself as Dave Sayer, the Executive Director for the Prize Patrol Team. To collect this wonderful prize, which would be paid in the amount of $10,000 per week for life, Mary was asked to overnight a cashier’s check to cover the processing fees in the amount of $799.
She went to her bank and dipped into her savings account for the cashier’s check and didn’t tell her adult children or grandchildren what she was doing.
She didn’t realize that it was a scam and that the man she was talking to and sending money to in fact wasn’t Dave Sayer or connected to Publishers Clearing House at all.
The scammer called Eye almost every day. The next step was paying the taxes, he told her. Eye was told that the company had paid 99 percent of the $750,000 for taxes on the prize, leaving her portion to be $5,500. Eye said she was only able to come up with $4,000 in the form of a cashier’s check, clearing her savings account.
The next amount he asked for was $25,000, to cover half the cost for the “Gold Seal Stamp” and an “IRS Stamp of Approval” for her prize money. Eye took out a loan and sent the funds of $25,000 overnight.
The next amount the scammer asked for was $13,000. He told Eye that the insurance for the prize was going to be $33,000 and that the company would cover $20,000. Eye took out another loan, cashed the check and overnighted the $13,000 in cash.
The total amount the Eyes sent was $43,110.28.
Eye has worked at Walmart for 38 years, while her husband is a retired preacher. They have four adult children and several grandchildren. Throughout the whole process, Eye didn’t tell her kids about what was going on until last week. She had wanted the money to be a surprise.
Eye said she realized something was wrong and she wasn’t getting her prize when the man on the phone kept setting up dates to deliver her prize and car and then canceling. By the third time, she said she knew it wasn’t right.
Eye said she had plans to retire after receiving the prize winnings, including paying back the loans.
When it was revealed that she wasn’t able to retire like the family had been asking her to do for years, her family found out about the scam.
Ex-daughter-in-law Michele McGuire, who calls Mary and Bill “Mom” and “Dad”, said once she found out, she sat down with Eye and asked questions. Having been a victim of scams before, McGuire said she knew how her ex-mother-in-law felt.
“I know that when you get scammed, you feel stupid,” McGuire said.
She Googled Dave Sayer and discovered that he was a legitimate person with PCH. Upon Googling the phone number, the first thing to pop up was a link to the Federal Trade Commission and a post about a scam using Publishers Clearing House names with dozens and dozens of comments from people as recently as December who were also targeted and some even victimized by this scam, with variations in detail such as the phone number calling or the amount or the name of the person who is supposedly on the other end of the phone.
McGuire started a GoFundMe page to raise money for Mary and Bill to help them pay their bills since their savings had been depleted. As of press time, it has raised $150 of its $20,000 goal. Any money from the GoFundMe would help in paying bills and making sure the Eyes don’t lose their home.
“They live modestly, but anything extra, they give away, and now I feel like they’re in a bad spot and I would love for them to receive that same type of generosity from whomever could help,” McGuire said.
“They’re ruining lives,” McGuire said about the scammers. “They’re devastating our elderly who don’t know better.”
McGuire stressed that this could happen to anyone but especially members of the older generations. McGuire also had concerns about where the money went and whether it was funding terrorist activity overseas.
McGuire took Eye to the Copperas Cove Police Department to file a police report Tuesday morning. Their next step is to contact the FTC and Publishers Clearing House. They will also be changing Eye’s phone number and checking credit reports and doing whatever proactive measures they can.
Eye said that as the scammer kept asking for more and more money, she got upset.
“I told my husband, ‘I wished you’d never said, ‘Go for it,’’” Eye said. “That’s three words that started this, because I wasn’t going to send him any. My husband said, ‘Go for it.’ He believed it too.”
The company’s website has information about these scams. With PCH, it is never necessary to purchase or pay a fee to enter, win or claim a prize in the sweepstakes. PCH also does not notify winners who will be visited by the Prize Patrol in advance. If someone wins a major prize, the PCH Prize Patrol will contact that person in person, not via phone or email. For smaller prizes (usually less than $10,000.00), winners are notified by overnight delivery services (FedEx, UPS), certified mail, or email in the case on online giveaways.
The link to the GoFundMe set up by McGuire for the Eyes can be found at: https://www.gofundme.com/f/please-help-mom-amp-dad-save-their-home?utm_source=customer&utm_medium=copy_link-tip&utm_campaign=p_cp+share-sheet