Elderly Aventura woman says swindlers conned her out of nearly $36K

AVENTURA, FLA. (WSVN) - - A 72-year-old South Florida woman is speaking out after, she said, she lost nearly $36,000 as a result of a phone scam.

Aventura resident Elaine Tiegen said the caller notified her she had won a large cash prize from a contest she had entered. “One day, I got a phone call from one gentleman with regard to winning a large prize, and I mean large: three and a half million dollars,” she said. “I thought, ‘It’s my lucky day.'”

But it wasn’t Tiegen’s lucky day. She said that call began a year of bad fortune. “I stupidly bought it,” she said.

Aventura Police are now investigating the bilking of nearly $36,000 from Tiegen.

“My daughter thinks I have early signs of dementia, and I don’t,” said Tiegen. “I went and had myself tested. I was so embarrassed.”

Last October, Tiegen said, she started sending money to two men who claimed she had won $3.8 million and a Mercedes-Benz but needed her to send them cash for sales tax, licensing fees and other costs related to the prizes.

Tiegen lives in a retirement community on a fixed income and has a hearing impaired daughter who does not work.

Tiegen said the money that she sent the callers was supposed to go to her daughter. Instead, she said, she was scammed.

The victim said, during the course of a year, she sent small amounts of money to different addresses all over the country. “[It’s] a lot of money that I could have used on my family,” said Tiegen.

The subjects later convinced Tiegen to buy cellphones for underprivileged children. “They made my life miserable,” she said. “I’m living day to day, and I never had to do that. I was successful in business, and it makes me feel even worse that I didn’t see it coming.”

Tiegen said she faces additional health challenges. “I have Parkinson’s. I have sleep apnea. I’m a mess inside,” she said.

Tiegen said the scam taught her a lesson, one that came with a hefty price tag. “Nothing is for free in this world. Everything comes at a cost,” she said.

If you have any information that could help this fraud investigation, call Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-TIPS. Remember, you can always remain anonymous, and you may be eligible for a $1,000 reward.

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