The elderly, who live alone, are prime targets for aggressive con-men. One woman trusted the scam artists who claimed she had just won the lottery. The victim's son, Bob, says it's been a horrible ordeal for his mother and himself.
"She has nothing," he said about his mom. "I have to bring food to her. I've had to pay a number of her bills. It's been a very difficult situation for both of us."
Bob's mother lost more than $250,000 after receiving solicitations like these along with phone calls from persistent con artists. The claim: We guarantee you will win the lottery. All you have to do is send in a small fee for the winning program.
"People would pay $67 to $109 dollars depending on what level they'd like to participate in this particular group," said U.S. Postal Inspector Amanda McMurrey.
Another flyer claimed the Lotto Max 356 Super Computer could predict winning state lottery numbers. But that, too, was a scam.
"She comes from a generation of people trusting what people say… because your reputation was everything. Nowadays reputations don't matter to people… they just want the money," Bob explained about his mother. "She no longer owns her house. She got a reverse mortgage and sent that money in cash through the U.S. Mail."
Bob urged postal inspectors to speak to his mother.
"It's very painful for him because he remembers his mother as a strong individual that went through a lot of things in her life and worked hard for her retirement money she had. And now to see her with virtually nothing left is very difficult for him," said McMurrey.
Despite losing it all, Bob's mother still believes she can win.
Bob said, "She once told me recently, 'Not everybody can be a crook.' And I said, 'Well Mom, so far 100% of them have been crooks and they seem to have your number.'"
Bob is exploring legal options for taking over his mother's finances - but meanwhile, it's a daily struggle.
"I can't monitor her, she lives too far away. I'm trying to get her to move to this house," he said.
An important reminder from U.S. postal inspectors: No legitimate lottery will ever ask for money, fees or taxes upfront. The U.S. Postal Service also has a new website that provides tips on how families can spot signs that a loved one has fallen victim to mail fraud and some ways to stop it. It's www.deliveringtrust.com.
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