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Consumer Alert: Lottery home invasion

It's the story of one man who thought he won millions but actually lost almost everything. He was a victim in a scam that targets the elderly.

Norman Breidenbaugh is understandably upset, as he looks at the home he shared with his wife for 22 years. He lost the home to foreclosure in a scam that started with a phone call.

"They told us we won a 2.5 million dollar sweepstakes," said Norman Breinbauer.

But first, the scammer told him to send $2,000 to pay for taxes on the winnings. After he agreed, they started asking questions.

"They would get information from you and then they would turn it around and use it against you," said Breinbauer. "They would say if I just send them this money then I would get this sweepstakes and I would have the money to bring her home."

Desperate to make that happen, Breinbauer refinanced his house and continued to send payments as the crooks strung him along. in the end, he not only lost his wife to cancer. he also was out $400,000 and his home.

"It's really sad and disgusting that someone is taking that much from someone who has worked so hard," said Frank Schissler, a U.S. Postal Inspector.

U.S. Postal Inspectors are working Norman's case. But the crooks are not easy to track down and they often run their scams from outside the U.S.

There are more than 60,000 cases of mail fraud every year, investigators say it's important to look for these warning signs.

"The easiest red flag to recognize in a lottery or sweepstakes scam is if you have to send money to collect winnings it's a fraud," said Schissler. "There is no legitimate sweepstakes or lottery that actually asks you to send money for taxes."

Breinbauer realizes he made a serious mistake. But he's hoping that talking about it publicly will prevent someone else from becoming a victim.

"If my telling my story keeps somebody else from getting in this kind of trouble that's all I need," said Breinbauer.

If you or a relative receives one of these lottery sweepstakes envelopes in the mail, take it to your local post office and ask to have it sent to a postal inspector.


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