An 80-year-old Berkeley man who was swindled out of $53,000 got a portion of the money back when it was recovered by officials.
The elderly man was a victim of a telemarketing scam based out of Quebec, according to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations department.
A con artist called the victim and told him he had won the seventh prize in a sweepstakes and that he needed to send money to pay "taxes" on the prize, ICE officials said.
The victim sent the telemarketer a check for $38,000. A few months later the man was contacted again by the same suspect and the victim sent a check for $15,000. This time, however, the check was intercepted by law enforcement officials.
"I probably will never see the first check for $38,000 I sent to this guy, but I'm very grateful to have the $15,000 back," the victim said in a statement.
"There is much to the saying that, if something sounds too good to be true, it is too good to be true," he said.
The check was intercepted by the Project COLT investigative team in Canada, ICE officials said. Project COLT -- or Center of Operations Linked to Telemarketing -- includes numerous agencies from the U.S. and Canada, including the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and the ICE HSI.
"This man was fortunate investigators were able to get at least some of his money back. Sadly, that's not often the case," said Shane Folden, special agent in charge of San Francisco's ICE HSI in a statement.
"While ICE HSI and its enforcement partners are doing everything possible to stop this kind of fraud, the first line of defense is for people to be suspicious of anyone who calls and asks them to send money."
ICE HSI officials urge the public to contact Phonebusters, Canada's anti-fraud call center, before sending money to telemarketers.
Phonebusters can be reached at (888) 495-8501 or www.phonebusters.com