Victims lured with a postcard, false promises

Published On: Jan 04 2013 09:04:52 AM EST   Updated On: Jan 03 2013 10:40:00 PM EST

It was an elaborate scheme to defraud hundreds of people out of millions of dollars.  Inspectors say it all began with a postcard received in the mail.

“Initially they were solicited to purchase some stamps so it was very innocent,” said Shari Delaney, US Postal Inspector.

And the solicitations just kept on coming if a potential victim said "yes."

“Each solicitation had a different enticement,” explained Delaney.

The second pitch: Participate in a foreign lottery by pooling your money with other people.

“They would receive a certificate showing their participation in that pool,” said Delaney.

Another pitch, "They could create a pension fund by contributing a dollar a day or portions of their winnings toward this,” explained Delaney.

And participants got an official-looking passbook where they could note their contributions.  Occasionally, victims would even receive a check like this one for a small amount.

“Victims money was used to fund these checks that went out to the victims to get them to continue reinvesting their money,” Delaney said.

There were at least 6,450 victims of this scheme and combined lost at least $25 million.

If you get similar solicitations, Delaney says the best way to avoid being a victim, "Don't show any interest.  Just say no."

And, don't even think about playing the lottery in a foreign country.  It's illegal.  Take those solicitations that come in the mail and just toss them in the garbage.