One Roswell woman may be considered one of the luckiest women in the world, or the unluckiest. In a space of a few short hours on Wednesday, she was told she had won $2.5 million from Mega-Million lottery company, $8,000 from Walmart and a free trip. In fact, Merlene Simmons received a total of six phone calls, each claiming she had won something.
In each instance, there was a catch. With the $2.5 million winnings, she was asked to pay 1 percent of the tax, which the caller said was $500.
Simmons kept records of each call right down to the minute the call was made. The first call came in at 11:57 a.m. The caller introduced himself as James Carter and asked if she remembered signing a ticket at a convenience store. She did.
“The frightening thing. They had my Social Security number, my mother’s maiden name, my husband’s mother’s maiden name. They knew I had cancer,” said Simmons.
Simmons contacted the Attorney General’s Offices and also spoke with a representative of the Consumer Protection Agency. Both urged her to file a report with the police and close down her bank account. “They must have had my credit card number, because all they needed was the three security numbers on the back.”
Simmons went into the Roswell Police Department around 12:40 p.m. The second call came while she was there. She informed the caller that she was trying get the money together to collect her prize. Simmons then attempted to call the number back, but received no answer. Then she received a call back at 12:50 p.m., and told the individual that she was at the police department.
Around 1:15 p.m., Simmons received another call on her cell. This time she was treated to Musak and told she had won a free vacation. At 6:33 p.m., another phone call informed Simmons she had won $8,000 from Walmart. The phone number for that call was different from the previous calls.
Some time during the afternoon, she also got another call. The number was listed as unknown. She did not answer. During one of the calls, she was asked to stay at home on Thursday to receive her winnings. That is when she learned they also had her address.
She admitted to being afraid. “If they have my phone number and if they have my address, how soon before they come walking in my door?”
According to Simmons, the police declined to take her report seriously. “He treated me like a ‘sweet little old lady’ and told me that they were severely understaffed,” she said.
Lynn Southard, spokeswoman for the AGO, stated, “It is mandatory for the police department to take a report of identity theft. She may have referred to it as a scam, so they dismissed it; but if they have all her personal information, this is identity theft.”
Southard then promised to send information about how to correct identity theft. The first step is to report it to the police, if they will take the report.
Simmons said when she spoke with the AGO consumer advocate, he said he was disappointed in the police. He urged her to return to the police department. They refused to take the report.
However, Simmons said she did receive something for her trouble when she closed her account to open a new one, a new clock from the bank.