LOS ANGELES, CA -- It's bad enough that large numbers of americans are getting lured into foreign lottery scams. Now, we have a story about two rival scam operations both preying on one victim. The victim in this case was spared by a stroke of luck.
U.S. Postal Inspector Steve Bolz said, "They are told they've won a prize, either a sweepstakes or a lottery prize - but there is a catch."
Foreign lottery scams are costing Americans more than $120 million a year. Thousands of people are falling victim to the promise of big winnings. Bolz said, "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."
In an unusual twist, a postal clerk tipped inspector Bolz off to a victim being targeted by two rival groups of foreign lottery scammers. Bolz said, "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 inspector Bolz who then returned it. This is a picture of the victim counting the contents - more than $13 thousand in cash that could have ended up in the hands of conmen.
Bolz told him it was all a scam, but the victim was reluctant to believe him. He said, "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."
The victim in this case tried to send money again. This time - Bolz spoke to his wife, who had no idea of any of her husband's actions.
She took his cell phone away and monitors their accounts daily - a sad by product of a scam that seems to be on the rise.
Bolz said, "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."
BIG TAKEAWAY: NO legitimate lotteries or sweepstakes will ask for money upfront.
US Postal Inspectors/WFMY News 2