Elderly widow loses big in lottery scam

Author: Jodi Mohrmann, Managing editor of special projects, jmohrmann@wjxt.com
Published On: Mar 05 2014 09:21:18 PM EST   Updated On: Mar 06 2014 07:20:00 AM EST

Everything is different now for 84-year-old widow Doris Galinas.  The retired nurse, who spent her life helping others, is now the one in need.

“When you realize it is happening to you - it is very different,” said Galinas. "They called and said I won a big prize from the Mega Millions and there were two cars – a new Mercedes.”

Euphoria quickly turned to frustration when she heard about a "catch".

"Taxes. You have to pay for the taxes, the state taxes. It never stopped," she said.

Galinas began making payments but realized she needed more money.

"They actually convinced her to go and refinance her house and come up with a large source of money so she refinanced her home at their advice and took out $151,000," explained US Postal Inspector Michael Gendron.

Galinas frequent trips to the post office to send her payments, which caught the attention of postal clerks.

"We were concerned for her coming in so often mailing via Express," said US Postal Clerk Daniel Stewart.

So,  they asked Galinas point blank if she was caught up in a scam.

"I believe every clerk who dealt with her tried to explain we didn't feel it was right or something wasn't right about it, but she said she was okay," explained Stewart.

"They would say we just want to make sure you're not being scammed and I said, 'Oh no, I'm not being scammed,'" added Galinas.

The clerks decided to notify postal inspectors about Galinas.

"They have absolutely no mercy when it comes to exploiting our senior citizens. So the best thing we can possibly do is talk about it, so that everybody knows how the schemes operate," added Gendron.

Galinas lost a staggering $100,000 to foreign lottery thieves.

 "I thought I was too smart for that," said Galinas. "But there's nobody that smart."

Here's something important to remember. No legitimate lottery will ask for money upfront if you've won.

If you get a call or a letter saying you've won a lottery and have to pay taxes to collect your winning, you can call the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at 1-877-876-2455 from 8am to 4:30pm.  By calling this number you will be asked to select from these options:

  1. Mail service issues [callers are then directed to 1-800-ASK-USPS (1-800-275-8777)]
  2. Emergency situations
  3. Mail theft or identity theft issues
  4. Mail fraud issues
  5. Postal Inspection Service customer support


(Option No. 2, Emergency situations, is automatically routed to a special operator for assistance if a call is made after business hours.)