LAS VEGAS (KSNV MyNews3) -- Beware of letters announcing you've won a contest, especially if you have to pay something to collect the winnings. In this Rip-Off Alert, one woman became a victim multiple times.
"They want me to enter a contest for $30,000 which I won't win, that's for sure,” said Reta Gail George, a fraud victim. "They look very authentic."
George is referring to just one of the letters piled on a table.
George’s saga started in 2011 when she was told she had won a Mercedes Benz that was on its way to her home.
" ‘We're at the state line, Miss George; we need $35,000.’ Well, I don't have no $35,000," she said.
The con artists were relentless.
"I said you didn't tell me I had to pay any money for it,” she said she told the con men. " ‘Well, yes, you have to pay income tax on it; that's the tax on it."
This was just the start. Since then, George has lost more than $70,000 in various foreign lottery scams.
Her name and phone number were put on a so-called "lead list" for other scammers to access her information.
"It got bigger and bigger and more people calling me for money and finally it got so big I had 64 calls in one day," she said.
George eventually called police about the calls, who told her this:
"They said, ‘Ms. George it's a scam. It's repetitious that's all it is. You're just giving your money away for nothing.’ Finally I caught on and said this is it. This is too much,” she said.
Postal inspectors were alerted to George’s case and were able to intercept one of her payments to those con men.
"We were able to recover $13,000 in money orders … wonderful," George said.
"Make sure you talk to your loved ones and let them know they should never pay a fee for something they have won,” said US Postal Inspector Blanca Alvarez.
George has strong words about people who prey on the vulnerable, just like her.
"They have no conscience,” she said. “They push ya and try to get more money out of you and if you don't say no they will take your home, they will take your money and leave you in the street and that's where a lot of people are now. It's terrible."
It is important to remember that no legitimate lottery will ever ask for money up front.