ST. LOUIS COUNTY (KSDK) - Whether it's by phone or email, more and more people are falling victim to lottery scams. It happened to one of our viewers in West County, who ended up paying for a so-called sweepstakes win with her life savings. She shares her story with 5 On Your Side's Mike Rush.
Our viewer is 88-years-old. She agreed to our interview, but because of her embarrassment of falling victim to this scam - she asked we not identify her. Still, her story speaks volumes and she hopes it spares others similar heartache and financial ruin.
We'll call her Mary, and starting back in October of 2012, a man using a Jamaican phone number, called her nearly every day.
"They told me I had won a sweepstakes and I said I didn't know how I'd won a sweepstakes because I didn't ever remember participating in one," said Mary.
"What did you think when they told you how much you has supposedly won?" said Rush.
"Well, it was hard to believe that I would be that lucky," said Mary.
Mary thought she'd hit the jackpot. That phone call was followed up with a fax, a certificate congratulating her on the win, pictures of cars, and a check made out to Mary for $5.5 million.
"I had been praying about my finances, because I'm in debt, " said Mary, "And I thought maybe this is answer to my prayers."
"How does winning money end up you giving money?" said Rush.
"Well, they said there were back taxes that I needed to pay on the money and that the car was in storage and I needed to pay storage fees," said Mary.
Mary started wiring money through Western Union, buying prepaid Moneypak cards at Walmart, KMart and CVS. Then she'd call, just like the man who called himself Lloyd Franklin, asked her to do.
"I'd call and say I'm ready to leave now and then he'd say call me when you get back, so that's why there are so many calls," said Mary.
She made the calls to the 876 area code. She believed the calls were toll-free, until the $3,000 phone bill arrived with dozens of calls to Jamaica.
Detectives with the Ellisville police department started investigating last month.
"We call this the 876 Jamaican Lottery scam," said Chief Tom Felgate.
Chief Felgate says they're still totaling receipts.
"$1000, $1500, these are numerous $500," said Felgate, "So it added up very quickly."
"Oh, I'd say between $50,000 to $60,000," said Mary.
"$50,000, $60,000 that's a lot of money," said Mike "Yes, it is," said Mary. "All my savings is what it was."
Mary's family is now taking care of her finances.
"It's just an outrage and all I can say is they're lucky if I never get ahold of them," said Mary's stepson.
He believes the damage is double Mary's estimate. Never in a million years, did her stepson believe Mary, who always thinks of others, could have basically given away all of her money.
"It's almost like they hypnotize people or something," said Mary's stepson. "It's just they get in their head and she just went back and did it again."
Mary says she knew it was too good to be true, when Lloyd Franklin didn't keep his promise.
"He was going to deliver my check and my car, I believe it was the third of December by 3 o'clock in the afternoon, so 3 o'clock came and went and he didn't show up," said Mary. "I knew then that I'd been scammed."
"If you were able to speak to him again, what would you say to him?" said Mike.
"Well, of course I believed him, but he turned out to be a big liar," said Mary. "He told me he was a Christian which was another lie, or he wouldn't be scamming people out of money, I just hope he spends the rest of his time in jail."
Chief Felgate says Mary virtually handed off her money to a stranger, and despite the fact that postal inspectors are investigating, Mary's lifesavings is most likely gone for good.
The Ellisville Police Department is putting together a fraud program to present to retirement homes and public meetings. They hope to stop these crimes before they happen.
If you've been a victim of this Jamaican Lottery scam, the Ellisville police department wants to hear from you. Call them at 636-227-7777.
Click here to view the FBI's most common fraud schemes.