If criminals robbed a bank and made off with $300,000, chances are that law enforcement officials would spring into action, making every effort to track down the thieves. But when a scammer steals $300,000 from an individual, the attitude is a little different.
"Basically, everyone has told us they're sorry, but there's nothing they can do," said Cynthia Blevins of Arkansas City, Kansas, whose elderly father lost $300,000 to the Canadian Lottery Scam over a four-year period.
Blevins started with her local police department and worked her way up to the FBI. She said she got plenty of sympathy and advice about avoiding scams in the future, but no help. She said she contacted the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, the Kansas Attorney General's Office, the FBI field office in Wichita and FBI headquarters in Washington.
"They all said 'sorry, it's not our jurisdiction,'" Blevens told ConsumerAffairs.com.
Since the scam appeared to originate in Canada, Blevens contacted the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and a Canadian non-profit group called Phone Busters. Both, she said, were much more responsive than U.S. agencies.
"They responded immediately and they would contact us from time to time, to see if scammers had contacted us again," Blevins said. "The RCMP said they didn't usually open files on individual cases, but because of the amount of money stolen from my father, they were making an exception."
With little help from her country, Blevins began her own investigation.
As a first step she enrolled her father on the National Do Not Call list and installed Caller ID on his telephone. Using a feature from her telephone provider, she blocked all calls unless they were identified.
One day a man called from Canada seeking more money, identifying himself as "Mr. P." Using commonly available Internet tools, Blevins entered the man's phone number and found the name and address in Canada. The last name did indeed begin with P.
"I immediately sent his name and address to Phone Busters. We never heard any more from that individual," Blevins said.
Blevins cannot afford to relax her guard in her war on scammers. Once someone has been victimized, especially to the tune of $300,000, they continue to be targets. In the scam world, it's known as "reloading." Often the scam is presented as a way to help the victim retrieve their lost money.
"We got a call from a man who said he was with the New York Attorney General's office, and that he could help my father get his money back, but that it would require a fee of $1,400," Blevins said.
Caller ID indicated the imposter was indeed calling from New York. The number showed an area code for the Bronx while the display indicated the call had been placed from Dot Com Hotel, located in lower Manhattan.
"When I emailed this information to the New York Attorney General's Office, they responded that no one by that name worked in their office. But they didn't show much interest," Blevins said.
After three years of fighting to protect her father from scammers and to retrieve his stolen money, Cynthia Blevins is growing frustrated with the efforts of U.S. law enforcement.
She doesn't want to be told again "sorry, it's not in our jurisdiction." Instead, she says she would like her own country to show at least as much interest as the Canadian Government in helping an American citizen.
"If you look on the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Web site, you'll see that they have caught a lot of scammers up there, and they make these people pay restitution. I think my father deserves that."