Despite warnings, lottery scams continue to pile up the victims

SEATTLE -- Across the country, people are being notified they've won thousands, and even millions of dollars through a lottery, or sweepstakes. Unfortunately, in most cases, it's nothing but a scam. The problem is, an alarming number of people refuse to believe it's a scam and they're losing everything.

"I believed them that it was a real thing and it was going to make our lives different," said Betty Klassen.

Klassen and her husband lost thousands of dollars to a lottery thieves.

"He said I won $3 million and if I sent $5,000 I could collect the money, so I sent him the money," Klassen said.

The retired teacher sent money orders and cash cards as directed. Then, the so-called lottery officials asked for even more money. Betty was convinced she'd won the big prize, until her children forced her to face the truth.

"I told them I thought I was going to make a lot of money, and they said 'Mom, that is a scam,' " she said.

When Betty's children found out, they called postal inspectors, who started tracking the case.

"This is her retirement savings, this is what she worked her whole life for," said Michael Roberto, US Postal Inspector. "And she is sending that money in a lottery scam in hopes of getting a lump sum in return."

Sadly, Klassen is not alone.

"It's someone's grandmother, it's someone's mother, it's someone's friend," Roberto said.

Victims of these scams rarely get their money back. The scammers are often in other states or outside the United States -- out of range from local law enforcement.

They're successful, because they know many people, seniors especially, are lonely, trusting and often confused. Scammers know what to say, and how to convince their victims that others will try to lie to them and call it a scam. The con men and women are very good at using psychology and they're extremely skilled a picking up on signs of dementia.

Klassen's $5,000 is gone.

"What broke my heart is she didn't want to answer the phone because she didn't want to be scammed again," Roberto said.

We have heard from a number of viewers who have shared similar stories about their parents. One viewer in Bellevue said her father is spending tens of thousands of dollars and gets angry when his kids try to warn him.

If you're in that situation, the local AARP has a good Fraud Fighter Call Center at 1 (800) 646-2283, which is manned by seniors who tend to have better success in getting fellow seniors to understand fraud. The peer-to-peer conversations have proven to make a big difference.

The Alzheimer's Association also has a 24/7 Helpline at 1 (800) 272-3900, which an can help with fraud and memory loss issues.

And you should always contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service whenever a scam involves sending money by mail.

Fraud investigators remind you that you never have to pay money in order to collect a prize. And you cannot win a lottery or sweepstakes that you've never heard of and did not enter.