Widow loses thousands in scam

Foreign lottery schemes may be costing Americans a billion dollars every year

By Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects
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The voices on the phone were friendly and persistent.  And they convinced an elderly widow to part with tens of thousands of dollars. 

"She received a phone call saying she won $2.5 million and she had to pay the sales tax on it," explained Michelle Lausiello.

She is talking about her mother, who lost more than $100,000 in a lottery sweepstakes scam.

"I feel like if they can get her - they can get anyone," warned Lausiello. "It's just awful that they are so persistent, evil, cruel that they can take that much money from a widow."

"They" are con-artists in Jamaica, who convinced Lausiello's mother to send the money to get her winnings.

"She was sending $500 increments," she added.

Lausiello says the voices on the phone were very persuasive and preyed on the fact that their mother was a widow.

"It happened after my father died, and we think that is how she got caught up in this big mess because she was filling a void that in her life," she added.

The family repeatedly warned their mother that this was a scam, but she continued sending money.

"They were brainwashing her basically, is what they were doing," said Lausiello.

The family was forced to take over their mother's finances.

"It was heart wrenching, it was aggravating that she would believe this, that she would believe that you could win money but you have to pay  money we told her over and over and never again we would keep telling her that you win something you don't have to pay," added Lausiello.

Foreign lottery schemes may be fleecing Americans out of as much as a billion dollars every year, and its getting worse.

"The fraudsters are relentless even ruthless they won't stop until seniors have no more money to send and then they will recruit them to get money from other seniors," explained US Postal Inspector Fran Schissler.

Inspectors say always remember that no legitimate lottery will ask you for money up-front. Keep that in mind when you receive calls, letters in the mail and especially emphasize that message to elderly friends, family and neighbors.

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