Scam spat sparks bomb threat at Ionia Verizon

FILE - (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)

BERLIN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A man’s spat with a scam artist sent police to the Ionia Verizon store Thursday afternoon.

According to a release from the Ionia County Sheriff’s Department, a 74-year-old man from North Plains Township became the victim of a “Sweepstakes Scam.” Police say he was told he had won millions of dollars, but needed to send money via Western Union overseas to pay for taxes and fees before the money would be delivered to him.

While traveling there, his pre-paid cell phone ran out of minutes so he drove to the Verizon Store on Commerce Lane, just off of M-66, to buy more minutes for his phone. However, the Verizon employees weren’t able to sell him more minutes. Instead, they allowed the scam victim to use their phone.

While speaking with the scammer, the man realized he was being scammed and ended the phone call by telling the scammer he would not send any money and hung up.

A short time after the man left the store, the scammer called the store back and began yelling at the store employees to find the 74-year-old man and put him on the phone.

When the employees refused, the scammer threatened to drive to the store and kill them all with a rifle and detonate a bomb in the store which prompted the large police response. Authorities later determined the scam originated from overseas and the threat was deemed not credible.

Detectives met with the man Thursday night who had no idea what had happened after he had left the store. He told police that he figured out it was a scam before he sent or lost any money.

Police says this serves as a reminder of how easy it is to fall for these types of scams, especially for the older generation who aren’t as tech-savy.

Often times the scammer will start friendly and then become more and more demanding, ultimately using threats of physical harm to keep their victim’s compliance in sending money to them, almost always by wire-transfer, Money Gram, PayPal, or Green-Dot cards, according to the Ionia County Sheriff’s Department.

Anyone who has fallen victim to these types of scams, or are concerned about the legitimacy of a phone call or letter claiming they won a prize is encouraged to contact the Ionia County Sheriff’s Office or their local police department.

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