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Scam claims couples life savings

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It all started with a phone call. Lynn West explained, "We tried to call my mother and the phone was disconnected."

This was the just the beginning of the problems Lynn found her mother and step-father had fallen into. "That was a big red flag. My mother has always paid her bills, she was always very careful about money. Since we couldn't reach her I drove over and said Mom what's going on? Why is your phone disconnected?"
Her mother said they had a huge bill they couldn't pay. "I said what do you mean $1000 bill? I mean, my mothers bill is like $12.00. How could you possibly have $100.00 bill?" Lynn told us. Her mom replied, "She said we have friends in another country."

Lynn soon realized her parents were caught in a vicious lottery scam and they truly trusted the voice on the phone more than her own family. "They were so gullible and so vulnerable he could just morph into one thing after another. He would pray with my mother and say "you're the mother I never had" and I love you so much."

Originally, the voice on the phone said they won a three million dollar sweepstakes and a Mercedes Benz and all they had to do was pay the fees and taxes. In all, the family lost more than $200,000 and the couple's finances were in shambles. Lynn and her siblings held interventions, involved authorities - anything to keep her parents from sending money. Lynn said, "As long as they were willing to participate, there was nothing I could do except deem them incompetent… which they were not."

Melissa Atkin is one of the U.S. Postal Inspector's who investigated the case. "Even if your loved one has always been a responsible financial person does not mean they can't fall victim to this scam."

Postal inspectors say there are some warning signs to look for, such as notes with phone numbers or odd names. "Green Dot cards lying around, stacks of them," Atkin said. "The criminals don't need the actual card, they just need the numbers on the back." Inspectors say remember, these con-artists are merciless.

Lynn says her mother and step-father lost all of this money in just 5 months. Postal inspectors encourage families to talk about the finances of elderly loved ones before it's too late. "Such a terrible, terrible thing to happen to my sweet, kind mother that would never do anything to anyone else, who would never hurt anyone else. It's such a cruel way for her to end up in her last years."