Competing scammers target one victim

Victim didn't believe he was targeted in foreign lottery scam

By Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects
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It's bad enough that large numbers of Americans are getting lured into foreign lottery scams. Now, we're learning about two rival scam operations both preying on one victim.

"They are told they've won a prize, either a sweepstakes or a lottery prize - but there is a catch," explained US Postal Inspector Steve Bolz.

Foreign lottery scams are costing Americans more than $120 million a year. Thousands of people are falling victim to the promise of big winnings.

"They have to pay money in order to collect this prize, there will be some sort of explanation it might be they have to pay taxes, they have to pay customs, processing fees it's all window dressing," said Bolz.

In an unusual twist, a postal clerk tipped Bolz off to a victim being targeted by two rival groups of foreign lottery scammers.

Bolz explained, "He was standing in line at the post office ready to mail a package as one of these groups directed him when he received a phone call on his cell phone from a rival group. When they learned what he was doing they gave him a new address to send that package. That is what he did."

The astute postal clerk sent that package to Bolz, who then returned it.  Saved was was more than $13,000 in cash that could have ended up in the hands of con-men. Bolz told him it was all a scam, but the victim was reluctant to believe him.

"People don't want to believe this is a scam, because they really want to believe in that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow," said the inspector.

The victim in this case tried to send money again. This time however, Bolz spoke to his wife.

"She was very upset, she had no idea her husband was sending thousands of dollars overseas, she had to take action at that point and rein him in," said Bolz.

She took her husband's cell phone away and monitors their accounts daily; a sad by-product of a scam that seems to be on the rise.

"I was unable to get through to him, because the story he was being told was just so much better than the story I was telling him," said Bolz.

A warning from postal inspectors: There are no legitimate lotteries or sweepstakes that will ask for money upfront to get your winnings.

Read more from the Better Business Bureau on the dangers of foreign lottery scams and steps to take to protect yourself if you think you won a sweepstakes of some kind.

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