Scams that prey on the elderly are no laughing matter, but when they’re so complicated and inept that they have—as yet—never succeeded, they’re at least a little bit funny to talk about. Specifically, we’re talking about a new scam that the El Paso police issued a warning about yesterday. The El Paso Times explains

El Paso police detectives are investigating a new lotto scam where a taxi is sent to pick up senior citizens at their homes.

The victim receives a telephone call claiming they won a sweepstakes prize. In an unusual twist, a taxi driver shows up at the home saying they were sent to pick up the person, officials said.

Detectives suspect that the caller is the same person who sent the cabs and other home delivery services to try get more information about the victim, police said. The caller claims to be from “Global International Sweepstakes and Lottery, Inc.”

There’s a lot of weirdness packed into those three paragraphs: First, lotteries and taxi cabs aren’t exactly a peanut-butter-and-chocolate sort of intuitive combination. Even if one is gullible enough to believe that they’ve won a secret, surprise lottery that they never bought a ticket for, it presumably raises a red flag to be told that the lottery commission is sending a taxi over to come pick you up. Second, a taxi? If you’ve won a bunch of money, shouldn’t they send a limo or something? Third, why are they picking up the lottery winner on the spot in the first place? Doesn’t someone just show up at your house with an oversized check? At that rate, it doesn’t even leave the supposed lotto winner the time to call their family and tell them about their good fortune. Fourth, elderly people are old, but they’re not stupid, and getting into strange cars is probably one of the first lessons they learned in life. 

Anyway, all of this is probably a pretty good explanation for why this scam has never been successfully pulled off. But there’s another burning question that keeps us up at night: Namely, what do the scammers intend to do with the victim if they do get into the car? 

It would seem that ransom, the obvious guess, is out. This whole scam was predicated on the elderly person in question being desperate enough that they throw caution, logic, and reason to the wind and believe that the offer of big money that they never signed up to win is so legit that they’re willing to get in a strange car for no discernable reason. A person in that position is probably not a person with friends or family who can write a check for tens of thousands of dollars in ransom fees. Maybe they scrape together ninety bucks, but does that even cover the cost of the fake taxi ride?

Most likely, whoever is attempting to carry out this scam would find themselves with a cranky, disappointed septuagenarian at whatever warehouse they took them to, bitterly frustrated that there is no oversized check waiting for them. Unless the scam’s final goal is to learn more about the victim’s grandkids or for the scammer to have someone to play Canasta with, it seems like there’s not much for anyone to get out of this. 

But it should be noted that scams that take advantage of the elderly are a legitimate cause for concern. To be certain, lottery scams are a serious problem that older folks should be aware of, and that their families should prepare them for. But “old” isn’t synonymous with “stupid,” and while we’re still baffled at what exactly the El Paso lottery/taxicab scam is all about, we’re heartened that it’s proven to be a failure so far. 

El Paso police request anyone who has been contacted by these scammers call the White Collar Crime Unit at 564-7130 or police at 832-4400 when they’re done laughing.