399862 02: Jose Esteban buys lottery tickets January 19, 2002 at the ETD food mart in Miami, FL. An $85 million lottery drawing lured Esteban and many other Floridians to lottery retail spots statewide, all vying to snatch up tickets before the late evening Florida Lotto drawing. Florida Lottery officials stated that the jackpot represented the fourth largest in the 13-year history of the state lottery. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
It's an old school con, but police say it's still being used effectively in South Florida on unsuspecting elderly people who just want to help.
The latest victim was targeted appropriately enough in a Target store in Hialeah, the whole ruse captured on surveillance video.
The video shows a tall man approach the 74-year-old woman identified only as Maria, winning lottery ticket in hand. He tells her he needs help, he's an illegal immigrant and can't cash in on the winnings. Then comes a woman in a floppy hat, who overhears and also wants to help.
"If she's legal in this country, she can cash it for them," Hialeah Police's Carl Zogby said. "In comes the female con artist, pretending to be a good Samaritan, she wants to help too, before the victim knows it, they've conned her out of some good faith money."
The tall man and woman in the floppy hat walk off with the elderly woman's Rolex watch, a show of good faith that she'll help cash in the ticket, and the couple disappears, the lottery ticket useless.
Detectives say they know of 15 similar lottery scams across Dade county, most of them preying on the elderly.
"Definitely it's not just one team working this scam, this has been going on for years," Zogby said. "There's definitely other people doing it, but we do suspect that these two are involved in several other cases."
Zogby said the scam artists always ask for the victim to put up something to prove they're OK. It could be cash, or in Maria's case, her expensive watch.
Detectives said if they're able to catch the pair, they think they can stop the lottery scams across Miami-Dade.
They also said you don't have to be in the country legally to cash a Florida lotto ticket.
Anyone with information on the lotto scammers is asked to call CrimeStoppers at 305-471-TIPS.