Consumer Alert: Hanging up the phone could to save you thousands
Ray Gibbs lost thousands in foreign lottery scam.
SEATTLE, Wash. - The callers were convincing. They told the man on the other end of the phone he had just won big money and a luxury car. Unfortunately, the calls were part of a scam that is targeting elderly across the nation at an alarming rate.
"I grew up in a time when you could believe people and they sounded so serious and truthful that it really had me going," says Ray Gibbs, a fraud victim.
Gibbs is talking about the phone call he received informing him he was the winner of $250,000 and a new Mercedes.
"I needed to send them some money to ensure the check got here ok, and so I did that," says Gibbs.
once he did, there were more phone calls asking for more money. The calls kept coming.
"And boy, they are smooth talkers. They know what you want to hear in order to get the money out of you," says Gibbs.
"These schemes and these fraudsters are very prolific," says Joe Stephenson, a U.S. Postal Inspector. "They don't stop and once you get on one of these lists, you're going to continue to receive these solicitations."
"I would get a stack this thick everyday. It was horrible what was going on," says Gibbs.
Postal inspectors estimate Gibbs lost $12,000 in this foreign lottery scheme, but he did have one stroke of luck.
Astute post office employees called postal inspectors when they saw Gibbs come in again with a package. They intercepted the package and returned $5,000.
"It was very gratifying to return that money to him," says Stephenson. "He didn't have that type of money. This was his retirement savings."
"I chock that up to a lesson learned, and move on, and never let that happen to me again," says Gibbs.
Gibbs has some simple advice.
"When they get a call saying they won something, hang up the phone because it's nothing but a big scam," says Gibbs.
Postal inspectors say don't forget that no legitimate lottery will ask you for money up-front. Keep that in mind when you receive calls, letters in the mail, or emails and especially emphasize the message to elderly friends, family and neighbors.