The pitch is seductive. You've won big money in a lottery and all you have to do is pay a small amount to get the winnings. It's one of the most successful scams in the country and it's destroying the lives of thousands of people. Dannie Perry is one of those people. He thought he won $2.5 million in a lottery sweepstakes. All he needed to do was pay a fee.
"$85 to win $2.5 million was a small amount to invest, so I invested. It escalated and it just went into the thousands," Perry says.
The initial fee didn't bring his pay day. The scam artists kept calling and demanding more money.
"I just got caught up in it and I exhausted some savings that I had. Then, I went to my charge cards borrowing cash off charge cards," says Perry.
There was no prize. Perry lost about $80,000 in the pursuit of the lottery money.
"I got disgusted with myself for getting involved when I should have known better. I finally just told them I didn't have any more money," says Perry.
"It's a pipe dream. We would all love to get a lot of money," says U.S. Postal Inspector Roger Mayhew.
Postal inspectors say Perry is one of thousands of foreign lottery victims. These scams are costing many older Americans their life savings, retirement funds and credit line.
"We need to stop it on the front end before people have lost hundred of thousand of dollars," Mayhew says.
Awareness and communication are key. If you get a call or mailing claiming you've won a lottery, talk to family and friends who are likely to steer you in the right direction.
"You may be the lifeline that can protect them from losing their retirement that they saved and worked all of their life for," Mayhew says.
Keep in mind, there is no legitimate sweepstakes or lottery that will ever ask for money upfront.