Congress hearing testimony over mail fraud schemes

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Americans who fall for foreign lottery scams are losing billions, and now, Congress is hearing testimony on the issue. One challenge for law enforcement officials is tracking down suspects who are overseas.

Mary Santiago with the U.S. Postal Service knows her customers, and suspected one was running a mail fraud scam based in the U.S.

"I said 'I don`t know what is going on, but she is getting Express mail from all over and it`s usually once a week. It will stop and it will start up again. Something is not right here,'" Santiago said.

Postal inspectors began tracking the Express Mail labels the suspect was signing and found a pattern.

Victims were receiving fake checks in the mail, or a letter saying they hit a jackpot. To collect winnings, they were told to pay a fee, tax or other expense, and the elderly are a prime target.

"They are preying on people who don`t know any better so they can take advantage of them and use them as a pawn in their scheme," U.S. Postal Inspector Louis Diaz said.

The suspect in this case was caught via a sting operation.

"I don`t know how anyone could do that to someone. People lose their houses, they take out second mortgages. I feel good that we caught her," Santiago said.

Inspectors say it is important to check to make sure elderly family members aren't lured into a scheme like this.

"These people worked hard for their money. As they get into their elder years, we have to keep an eye on those most vulnerable," U.S. Postal Inspector Joseph Bunaskavich said.

Postal inspectors were able to return some of the money to the victims of this mail fraud scheme.