What would you do if you worked behind the cash register of a liquor store where someone came in with a winning lotto ticket? Would you be happy for them and tell them the happy new? Would you tell them that they won nothing and take the winnings for yourself? It is hard to know what you would do if you were faced with such a situation, but this very scenario happened to one woman who was faced with this decision – a decision that would make her go down a very dark path. However, this woman thought that she could pull a fast one on this individual without realizing who she was dealing with in the first place. She was not only going to get instant karma, but she was in for a very rude awakening.
The man in question walks into the store and wait to speak with the cashier. As soon as he gets to her he asks if she could scan his lotto ticket to see if he had won anything. The cashier does just that and takes the ticket to scan. The cashier then freezes as she realizes that this is indeed a winning ticket. In that same moment the cashier shakes her head “no” and puts the ticket to the side. What happened next no one could have foreseen.
Crystelle Yvette Baton was the cashier in question. She worked at a local Winn-Dixie grocery store in Fort Meyers, Florida. She worked in the liquor department of the store where the lottery area was too. The day was just like any other, until one man came in with his ticket. As soon as Baton saw that this was a winning ticket, she decided she was going to do the unthinkable and lie to the man.
Once Baton put the ticket in the scanner she saw that the winning ticket was worth $600. Granted, it could have been more but it was a lot to her. She made a split second decision to con the man out of his winning and slid a $5 bill across the counter which she told him he had won. The man then took the bill and walked out of the store. While she may have thought she was safe, she was wrong.
Baton was busy thinking about how she was going to spend the money she just essentially stole for the man and did not notice that there was someone watching her. She took the winning ticket and put it inside her personal notebook to cash-in later on. Had Baton done this kind of scam before? She would never see coming what would happen on that day – she messed with the wrong man, that is for sure.
Flash-forward to after this story was made known to the world, the public was furious. A woman who was a Winn-Dixie customer was interviewed about this, she said, “Anyone that is working in a customer service job, you think that they are doing what is in your best interest. I would be very upset if someone took that from me.” This is entirely understandable, yet it does help if scam prevention methods are in place.
There is a whole organization dedicated to the fairness in lottery winnings; the Lottery Commission is jus that organization. They work hard to make sure that the rules of the games are followed and that official retailers of all lottery games are working honestly and are not scamming or being scammed. In order to prevent such behavior, they have placed policies to keep everyone safe and avoid scams.
In an effort to make the lottery system more secure, the Commission went tech-friendly. The installed Express Check scanners in some of their official retailers so that buyers could scan their own tickets. There are 7,076 of these stations at this point all over the state of Florida. There is also an app that users can use to scan their tickets and check if they had won. If the tech is not available where you are, there are other avenues to consider.
Due to the fact that the monitor has to be visible to the customer at all times, one recommendation that the Commission has for people is to look at the monitor as the ticket is scanned, as well as listening for the winning sound which comes on automatically when the scanned ticket is a winner. Many buyers are not aware of this, so be vigilant when you get your ticket scanned. There are other policies in place to make sure people know.
A little while after Baton gave the man the $5, he went back to the Winn-Dixie store. However, he did not go back to complain to management but rather to arrest her. You see, the man in question was, in fact, an agent of the Lottery’s security department who was working undercover. He was there to make a random integrity investigation, which Baton failed absolutely miserably. Without realizing it, Baton was in much deeper trouble than she thought.
Once Baton was placed under arrest, the agent searched her belonging and found the ticket she had put in her personal notebook. Baton was charged with grand larceny and could face up to five years in jail. The following day, Baton posted a $5,000 bond. Her trial would take place on February 26, 2019. However, this was just one of the consequences she would face. Baton’s life was about to get even more turbulent.
As soon as the store got wind of what had happened with Baton, they released a statement saying: “We are taking this matter very seriously as the trust and safety of our customers is our highest priority.” They continued by stating: “The associate’s employment has been terminated.” It seems that Baton not only faced prison time, but she just kissed her job goodbye too. Surprisingly, she did have people defending her.
Amy Wetherby, a woman who claimed to know Baton, said that the story was put together in pieces and that that is not what happened. She said that Baton was new to her position and did not know how to look if the ticket was a winner or not. She also said that Baton asked the man to go to another representative for help. Everything Wetherby said could not be confirmed and others were also questioning it.
Many of those reading about Baton and what she did thought that it was far too suspicious, all the more because of her taking $5 from her own wallet. While it may be true that Baton was relatively new to the are and therefore the job, the commonality of lottery scams makes Baton’s story of innocence not very likely. Most of the people were not buying her act at all.
One man who commented on NBC2’s story, said that the same thing happened to his wife: “She was told she had to take a $300 winning ticket to another store because they didn’t have enough money to cash it. We were then told that the ticket had been cashed at the first store.” Luckily, in their case they were able to confront the other clerk and the woman got her winnings. There was another commenter who shared his own story.
Another commenter said: “This is much more common than you would think…A favorite trick, pretend to throw ticket away after telling someone they did not win anything, and then when they leave, pull it out of the trash and collect.” This same man shared how to make sure you do not have this happen to you – this is a teachable moment for sure. Ready for this?
The man said, “I put my name on the back always, and always notice when the cashier checks the back before she determines whether it won something or not.” The Lottery Commission also says: “This will help prevent someone else from claiming a prize on your Florida Lottery ticket if it is lost or stolen, or if someone tries to scratch out, white out or change your signature.”
A store owner also had two cents on this considering it is him and his employees who check the scanned tickets. He wants to always know that they are not scamming anyone: “It’s something you have to keep on top of, something you have to manage because there’s a lot of money involved, a lot of possibilities for things to go wrong, a lot of temptations,” he explained. “There’s no limit to the potential of abuse that can happen with this type of thing.” There are more scams, though…
Here was have the case of a Massachusetts woman who picked up a call only to hear her grandson’s panicked voice on the other end. He told her he was scared and described where he had slept the previous night. She, as any parent or grandparent would, went totally cold. She ran out of the door as he mentioned the words “police” and “car accident”. She had no idea what to do with herself.
According to the grandson, he was hd spent the night in jail after getting into a car accident while intoxicated. This grandmother knew all too well that her grandson had a troubled relationship with his parents and would often call her when he was terrified of his parents finding out about one thing or another, let alone this much trouble that he was in now.
The grandson pleaded with his grandmother not to tell his parents. He felt humiliated at what he had done and knew he would be severely punished for his actions. He also had no idea what he would tell his mom and dad about the car since it was completely done for. The grandmother, Fran, knew she would tell no one and that she needed to get her grandson out of jail.
The grandson, Mark, brought the phone to his public defender who started speaking with Fran and telling her what to do to get Mark out of jail. Fran, at 83 years of age, wrote down every single detail that the man said. The first step was to order a taxi. She got the number from the lawyer and proceeded to do exactly as he told her.
The taxi pulled up to Fran’s home and she willingly stepped in. As she was sitting in the cab she was telling the driver all that was happening as she was too distraught to keep it to herself. She was in a very emotional place in that moment. Fran was lucky that she opened her mouth to the driver as it would be the difference between a huge mistake and a lucky break.
The taxi driver asked Fran what she needed to do to get her grandson out of jail. She had read the driver the list that the lawyer told her, all of which she already did earlier that day, this was her second trip out. Her grandson and his public defender asked Fran to buy $4,000 worth of Home Depot gift cards.
The public defender told Fran to call the taxi, go to Home Depot, buy the gift cards, and to call back with the PIN numbers of all of the gift cards. Fran recollected that it was all very convincing and that she knew that if his high school found out what had happened that he would be kicked off of the hockey team and she could not let that happen. They were on their way to Walmart now, but the driver decided elsewhere.
The taxi driver, Spencer, heard about Fran before he drove her and only realized it in the moment. One of his other driver friends was driving Fran around that same morning and told Spencer about her Home Depot run. She had already spent thousands at Home Depot, and she was going to repeat herself at Walmart. Spencer had one thing he could do.
Spencer had to tell Fran the truth that she was not able to see – “excuse me, ma’am, but that is not your grandson.” Fran looked at Spencer and could not understand how he would know such a thing. Spencer then said, “It is someone posing.” Spencer then made it his own mission to get justice for Fran and took her to the Quincy Police Station.
The officers at the police station confirmed that the caller was not her grandson, Mark, but someone trying to scam Fran with a scam that was targeted for grandparents. They said: “The ‘relative’ of the grandparent explains he is in trouble and needs their grandparent to wire them funds. They would then claim that the funds will be used for bail money, lawyer’s fees, hospital bills or another fabricated expense.”
Fran, who obviously believed the police, found it hard to believe that this had happened to her. Fran was indeed happy that her grandson was actually fine and not in any trouble but she was very upset with herself for not realizing the lie that was unfolding before her, not to mention the money she had been conned out of. Fran wanted to make sure this did not happen to anyone else in her senior community. Spencer was her hero.
The taxi drivers actions changed this woman’s life and meant that more senior citizens would be wiser when it came to such scams. As the story went viral online, the taxi driver was rewarded with the guest of honor status at the Kennedy Senior Center in Quincy. While the purpose of the day was to honor Spencer and raise awareness, it went beyond that in actuality.
To honor Spencer’s action, Massachusetts Credit Union donated $1,000 to the Kennedy Senior Center so that they may be educated further in the fight against elderly exploitation. Walter Laskos, the representative of the Cooperative Credit Union Association, said: “Today, this industry that’s scamming seniors, they’re making more than $40 billion dollars a year off seniors. That’s awful, isn’t it?” That statistic is downright terrifying and angering.
After this happened, Massachusetts Credit Union launched a program call Senior Safeguards with the goal of fighting these kinds of scams. A woman in the audience that day had said that they kept calling her asking for more and more money. How much are we talking? She said that she lost $30,000 which she said she had resigned to never see again. This had to be stopped.
First a foremost, the program aims to make sure that seniors know that this is a thing and happens all the time – know that it is happening and take control. The reason this scam is such a success for these guys is because it preys on the feelings of these individuals. Grandparents are especially vulnerable to these scams as their grandkids are their pride and joy, they would do anything for them.
Spencer wanted to take it a step further and speak to the cashiers out there who are serving these seniors: “Cashiers, etc: If you work in an environment that sells gift cards, take a moment to ask yourself: Does this make sense? Why would an 87-year-old individual need $4,000 in gift cards to this particular store/app? Ask questions. Sure, there may be a legitimate reason, but if you take the time and ask the questions, you just might prevent someone from falling victim.”
FedEx has already started implementing these scenarios with their staff so as to make sure nothing like that happens in their stores. There was already a situation where a cashier spoke to a customer about this as she was buying the gift cards, only to realize that it was happening to her in that moment. The cashier at FedEx saved her from being scammed and spending thousands of dollars.
When FedEx heard about this they were overjoyed that one of their employees took the initiative and helped their customer in such a wonderful way. This kind of scam has been around for many years, but it is becoming more complex and convincing every time. Social media makes it easier to follow these grandparents and their families so as to make the story all the more convincing.
“There is usually some nugget of truth to what people are saying to you,” said Marian Ryan, the Middlesex District Attorney. “We are seeing a lot of these cases with some substantial sums of money.” In terms of the statistics for the year, this scam has cost families a whopping $41 million! Last year the yearly stat was $26 million, so there is something that is making this scam work, which authorities are trying to halt.