Investigators warn you to 'just hang up'

Published On: Aug 14 2014 07:15:34 PM EDT   Updated On: Aug 21 2014 06:20:00 AM EDT

Just hang up.  That's what U.S. Postal Inspectors say you should do the next time you get a call telling you that you've won a lottery, but have to pay a fee to collect those winnings. It's simple advice that could help you avoid becoming the next victim. 

"They tell you to sit down because they have some good news for you," said Karen Hendricks, who fell for the scam.

Hendricks was told she had just won $5 million and her whole world was about to change.

"They convince you - they really make you feel like you're a winner," she added.

All Hendricks had to do was pay the taxes and fees to claim her jackpot.  So, she sent what she could.  Soon that wasn't enough. Her boyfriend, Michael H. Washington, says she was encouraged to find other ways to get the money.

"She said she didn't have any more money and they asked could she sell her jewelry? Could she get a loan," Washington explained.

Inspectors say Hendricks is just one of thousands of victims each year  who are lured into foreign lottery scams.

"The fraudsters are vicious," said U.S. Postal Inspector Frank Schissler. "They want to take anything they can from these poor seniors that are well just being duped into believing they won something."

Inspectors involved with Hendricks' case realized it intersected with another case in Las Vegas and they were able to recover $800.

"We were able to catch her early on before she sent a very large sum of money. We were able to recover some of it," Schissler said.

Hendricks says she realizes she made a mistake and has some advice for anyone who thinks they have won.  She says think again.

"I just want to warn people. Please don't fall for the trap. It's just a trap to try and get your money from you," she said.

Postal inspectors add that you should never pay upfront to claim sweepstakes or lottery winnings.  It's safe to assume that if you are asked for a fee, it's a scam.


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