Beware of letters announcing you've won a contest, especially if you have to pay something to collect winnings. One woman shares her story of how she fell victim multiple times.
“They want me to enter a contest for $30,000, which I won’t win, that’s for sure," explained Reta Gail George.
George is referring to just one of the letters piled on her table, which is only two days worth of mail.
“They look very authentic,” she added.
Her saga started in 2011 when she was told she had won a Mercedes Benz that was on its way to her home.
George explained one phone call, “We’re at the state line Miss George, we need $35-thousand dollars, well I don’t have no $35,000.”
The con artists were relentless.
“I said 'you didn’t tell me I had to pay any money for it. Well yes you have to pay income tax on it, that’s the tax on it,'” said George.
This was just the start. Since then, George has lost more than $70,000 in various foreign lottery scams. Her name and phone number were put on a so-called "Lead List" for other scammers to access her information.
“It got bigger and bigger and more people calling me for money and finally it got so big I had 64 calls in one day,” said George.
She eventually called police about the calls.
"They said 'Ms. George it’s a scam. It’s repetitious that’s all it is – you’re just giving your money away for nothing.' Finally I caught on and said this is it. This is too much,” said George.
Postal Inspectors were alerted to George's case and were able to intercept one of her payments to those con men. They were able to recover $13,000 in money orders George had sent.
“Make sure you talk to your loved ones and let them know they should NEVER pay a fee for something they have won,” warned US Postal Inspector, Blanca Alverez.
George has strong words about people who prey on the vulnerable, just like her.
"They have no conscience, they push ya and try to get more money out of you and if you don’t say no they will take your home, they will take your money and leave you in the street and that’s where a lot of people are now," said George. "It’s terrible.”
It's important to remember no legitimate lottery will ever ask for money up front.