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How to stop the lottery scam

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It takes close monitoring of mail, email and phone calls to know if an elderly family member or friend is being targeted by scammers in a foreign lottery scheme. Investigators say even if you find out they've been sending money, you may have trouble convincing the victim it's not real.

Robert Defabio's mom fell victim. "I get angry," he said. "I can't really show it because I don't think she understands what she is doing." Defabio is talking about his mother and the fact that she's lost thousands of dollars in savings to a lottery scam.

I'm still in the process of trying to make her understand. It's hard because she is home alone and I'm working and I can't babysit her all the time," Defabio said.

Despite several interventions by family members and postal inspectors, his mother still is compelled to send money to the fraudsters calling her on the phone. "She thinks she is going to get the big pay day I guess. I guess she just keeps trying and she thinks it's going to come and it never comes of course," Defabio explained.

Brian Evans, a U.S. Postal Inspector sees a lot of families like Defabio's. When it comes to the scammers he said, "They are very convincing, they are very persistent. While we were at the victim's house three calls came in a half hour."

Initially, Defabio's mom was asked to pay the taxes on a multi-million dollar jackpot. Inspectors can tell this victim has lost between four and five thousand dollars. The family fears it is much more, however, since they only just discovered the scam.
"My mailbox is full every day of the week." Defabio said. "I'll read them and they will range from a new car, seven million dollars, one point two million dollars, but they are all the same people."

Inspector Evans said had it not been for a postal worker, they might not have discovered what was happening. "The postal clerk in this case actually recognized this women and said she was in here yesterday and she's back here again," Evans said. When inspectors asked the woman if they open the letter she was sending they found a check inside. "You could tell she was a little confused."

Sadly, older americans are the most popular targets for these schemes. Inspectors encourage families to be astute and monitor elderly family members and their finances. Showing them stories like this one and even taking them to talk with postal inspectors can help to convince them they are being swindled.