Beware of letters announcing you've won a contest, especially if you have to pay something to collect the winnings.
"They want me to enter a contest for $30,000 which I won't win, that's for sure." Reta George is referring to just one of the letters she received in the mail.
Reta's saga started in 2011 when she was told she had won a Mercedes Benz that was on its way to her home. She recalls the phone conversation, "We're at the state line Ms. George, we need $35,000. , well I don't have no $35,000"
The con artists were relentless. " Reta says they told her, "You have to pay income tax on it", that's the tax on it."
This was just the start. Since then, Reta 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," says Reta.
Reta eventually called police, 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."
Postal inspectors were alerted to Reta's case and were able to intercept one of her payments to those conmen. "They have no conscience, 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," says Reta.
The Federal Trade Commission reminds you that shouldn't have to buy or pay anything to win. Telemarketers are legally required to tell you that.
The FTC offers more tips on prize scams here.
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