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Consumer Alert: Lottery scams target elderly


The phone rings and the caller tells you you've won millions. There's a catch though and it's intended to wipe out your savings.

"They are really good. It was so believable. Now, I would know better," says Jean Adams.

Adams learned a costly lesson.

"It was $4 million dollar sweepstakes, they needed so much money because the vaults would not open until they had the very final payment," says Adams.

Adams sent the small payment and additional payments until she realized she had sent out thousands of dollars.

"They always wanted you to send cash or something that, I guess could not be traced," says Adams.

After months of payments, Adams became suspicious and decided to stop answering the phone. The calls didn't stop.

"They were very relentless, sometimes in the night, always in the daytime. And this went on for months, months, months," says Adams.

The scam artists became so desperate they even sent a taxi cab driver and food delivery van to Adams' home.

"They couldn't reach me and were trying to find out, am I still here?," says Adams.

"If they lose contact with them they are going to go through any means to establish that contact so to them there is no limit on that. As long as they can get those people to send them money, they will continue to go back to that same individual," says U.S. Postal Inspector Scott Barber.

Postal inspectors say some con men go as far as using police to help them.

"They would contact the local authorities and say they are family members," says Barber.

They would also ask police to see if their victims are still in the same location. Elderly are the most common target of these foreign lottery scams and they're losing millions of dollars a year.

Postal inspectors want you to listen closely to this warning.

"If it sounds too good to be true, it's probably illegal," says Barber.

Postal inspectors say it is important for all families to remember that no legitimate lottery will ever ask for money upfront. If your parents live alone, be sure to look or ask what kind of mail they are receiving. In particular, ask them if they are getting any sweepstakes or lottery letters in the mail.


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