Couple robbed of $275,000 after thinking they won $85 million

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - It could easily happen to you, crooks so smooth they got a southeast Missouri couple to send them more than a quarter of a million dollars.

Bankers say their clients thought there was an $85 million prize in store, and the unidentified couple still believes there could be.

In this case, they're pleading with everyone to wise up, and in this situation hang up the phone.

"When I first learned of the story it was so crazy I thought this can't be really happening," said Jay Knudtson of First Missouri State Bank.

Knudtson says it all started when a man came into his Cape Girardeau bank concerned his parents were being taken advantage of.

"They are hardworking people and had gotten involved in a situation that they really truly believed they were going to be the recipients of $85 million," said Knudtson.

What was most unbelievable to Knudtson, the callers had managed to rip them off without one piece of documentation. With nothing more than smooth talking over the telephone, the con artist managed to convince the couple they'd won a contest, and needed to pay some fees up front via Western Union which is a process hard to track.

"We heard about these scams at time and we think how could somebody be so stupid but the fact of the matter is these guys are good," said Knudtson. "They damaged a lot of lives."

Authorities discovered the couple had sent the callers almost $275,000.

"When authorities did get involved there was a planned meeting where the couple was to receive their big lottery if you will and the scammers didn't show up," said Knudtson.

They managed to trace the calls to a disposable phone in another country, but police say the culprits will probably never be caught.

"You can really cut to the chase by adopting the rule you don't ever send any money for anything without full awareness or control over where you are sending it," said Knudtson.

Knudtson says he can't believe how easily the suspects forged a connection with the victims over the phone, a relationship so deep the elderly couple still holds out hope they will see their $85 million.

"Even in the end he said, 'Jay when they show up to bring me that money do you want to be there?'" recalled Knudtson. "I have to tell you in my years I have never seen anything as sad as this."

The FBI says there are so many reports like this, that they probably won't catch the culprit.

Bottom line here, never ever send someone your money if you don't know who they are or where it's going and if it sounds too good to be true - it probably is.

In this case, the couple's son took over part of their account so they are no longer sending off any cash.

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