CONSUMER ALERT: Foreign lottery scams cost victims thousands

It started with one piece of mail promising a fortune, but by the time this scam was over, the victim was practically penniless. Police warn you could be the next target behind this popular con game.

"They sent a letter, 'you won a million dollars, please send back the letter and $50.'"

Edna Dejar fell victim to the fraud. She was told she won millions of dollars in the foreign lottery letters. But, after sending more than $10,000 over a year, Dejar was never given a cent.

"They send nothing," she explains. "all they do is ask again, ask again, ask again."

The 87-year old would have continued sending money if the bank had not stepped in and called her son. That's when Carlos Dejar learned the lottery scam had left his mother with practically nothing, even though she thought she was paying the taxes and fees on prizes she won.

"She probably started with two or three that were different and then those three turned into 30, those 30 turned into 300 and the 300 turned into an unimaginable amount of things," says Dejar. "She would be in the house opening mail for hours and hours."

Sometimes Dejar would be sent small trinkets, leading her to believe the promised winnings were real.

"It's just garbage," says Dejar's son. "It's something you would get in a swamp meet for $20."

When Carlos told his mother it was all a scam, she didn't believe him.

"She threw a fit. She was absolutely not talking to me for days. She was very nervous and very angry with me."

Carlos says the conartists not only bombarded his mother with mail, they also began calling her.

"There are a lot of people who are elderly that have no one that they can rely on," he says, "that what these sweepstakes people are relying on."

US Postal Inspector Ricky Vida explains that's how it works. The conartists get you to answer questions like where you grew up or went to school.

"While they are on the phone, they are Googling that area and pretend they grew up in the same area," says Vida.

Postal Inspectors say consumers need to keep it in mind.

"Any legitimate lottery if you win will take the taxes and fees out after you get the money," Vida explains, "they don't ask for it up front, there is no advance fee you have to pay."

Carlos hopes other families to learn from his mistake.

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