The callers were convincing. They told Ray Gibbs over the phone that he had just won $250,000 and a new Mercedes. But, the calls were part of a scam targeting the 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, it really had me going," admitted Gibbs. "I needed to send them some money to ensure the check got here ok, and so I did that."
And once Gibbs did, there were more phone calls asking for more money again and again.
"And boy, they are smooth talkers," said Gibbs. "They know what you want to hear in order to get the money out of you."
"These schemes and these fraudsters are very prolific," warned U.S. Postal Inspector Joe Stephenson. "They don't stop. And once you get on one of these lists you're going to continue to receive these solicitations."
Gibbs explained, "I would get a stack this thick everyday. It was horrible what was going on."
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 that package and returned $5,000 to Gibbs.
"It was very gratifying to return that money to him, you know he didn't have that type of money, this was his retirement savings," added Stephenson.
"I chock that up to a lesson learned, and move on, and never let that happen to me again," Gibbs said.
He has simple advice for anyone who answers the telephone.
"When they get a call saying they won something hang up the phone because it's nothing but a big scam," warned Gibbs.
Inspectors say it is important to remember that no legitimate lottery will ask you for money upfront. Keep that in mind when you receive calls, letters in the mail and especially emphasize the message to elderly friends, family and neighbors.
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