The crime can happen in an instant, with a phone call or an e-mail telling someone they've won a million dollars. And while this so-called "lottery scam" doesn't fool everyone, it's certainly hurt its fair share of families in Lexington. Police say they get four to five phone calls a week asking about the scam. They've got 18 current cases they can't close.
As WKYT found out, once victims answer a few questions, their life savings can disappear in a flash.
For a Lexington woman, who wanted her identity kept secret, her dad's winning lottery ticket came in an email.
"He had a chance to win a million dollars," she explained, "and all they had to do is have him fill out his name, social security number, bank information, credit card information. And he's very trusting, doesn't know any different. They informed him just to send $2500 over in a wire to Spain."
In two years, the woman's father sent between $300,000 and $500,000 in savings.
"He finally realized they're not gonna give him the million dollars in the US, so he got irritated and he bought a plane ticket and went and got his passport and went to Spain to go confront the individuals."
Trying to claim his winnings almost cost him his life.
"We could have cared less at that point about the money. Just bring him home to us."
This woman was lucky, authorities were able to locate her father in Spain and send him back to the United States, but they did not recover the missing money. Once that money goes overseas, Lexington police say it's impossible to track.
"That's why we're trying to prevent it from happening as opposed to trying to solve the cases later on when they do come in," says Lexington Police Detective Mike Helsby, a financial crimes investigator, "if people are asking for money or for payment for you to claim a prize, 99% of the time it's gonna be a scam."