Consumer Alert: Phone scam fleeces Americans out of billions each year
Remember, no legitimate lottery will ask you for money up-front.
The voices on the phone were friendly and persistent and they convinced an elderly widow to part with tens of thousands of dollars. It was part of a billion dollar scam that might target you next.
"She received a phone call saying she won $2.5 million and she had to pay the sales tax on it," says Michelle Lauciello, a fraud victim.
Michelle is talking about her mother, who lost more than $100,000 in a lottery sweepstakes scam.
"I feel like if they can get her, they can get anyone," says Lauciello. "It's just awful that they are so persistent, evil, cruel and that they can take that much money from a widow."
The "they" Michelle is referring to are con artists in Jamaica who convinced Michelle's mother to send the money to get her winnings.
"She was sending it in $500 increments," says Lauciello.
Michelle says the voices on the phone were very persuasive and preyed on the fact that their mother was a widow.
"It happened after my father died, and we think that is how she got caught up in this big mess because she was filling a void that in her life," says Lauciello.
The family repeatedly warned their mother that this was a scam, but she continued sending money.
"They were brainwashing her basically," says Lauciello. "That's what they were doing"
Michelle's family was forced to take over their mother's finances.
"It was heart wrenching," says Lauciello. "It was aggravating that she would believe this, that she would believe that you could win money, but you have to pay money. We told her over and over. We would keep telling her that you win something you don't have to pay."
Foreign lottery schemes may be fleecing American's out of as much as a billion dollars every year and its getting worse.
"The fraudsters are relentless, even ruthless," says Frank Schissler, a U.S. Postal Inspector. "They won't stop until seniors have no more money to send and then they will recruit them to get money from other seniors."
Postal inspectors say always remember no legitimate lottery will ask you for money up-front. Keep that in mind when you receive calls or letters in the mail and especially emphasize that message to elderly friends, family, and neighbors.