Elderly widow loses $100K in lottery sweepstakes scam

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- The voices on the phone were friendly and persistent. They said the right thing to convince an elderly widow to part with tens of thousands of dollars. Before you say 'that could never happen to our family,' Contact 6 offers a warning.

"She received a phone call saying she won $2.5 million dollars and she had to pay the sales tax on it," Michelle Lauciello says of her mother.

Lauciello's mother lost more than $100,000 in a lottery sweepstakes scam.

"I feel like if they can get her - they can get anyone. It`s just awful that they are so persistent, evil, cruel that they can take that much money from a widow," Lauciello said.

"They" are con artists in Jamaica, who convinced Lauciello's mother to send the money to get her winnings.

"She was sending $500 dollar increments," Lauciello said.

Lauciello says the voices on the phone were very persuasive and preyed on the fact that their mother was a widow.

"It happened after my father died, and we think that is how she got caught up in this big mess because she was filling a void that in her life," Lauciello said.

The family repeatedly warned their mother that this was a scam, but she continued sending money.

"They were brainwashing her basically, is what they were doing," Lauciello said.

Lauciello's family was forced to take over their mother's finances.

"It was heart-wrenching. It was aggravating that she would believe this -- that she would believe that you could win money but you have to pay money. We told her over and over and never again. We would keep telling her that when you win something you don`t have to pay," Lauciello said.

Foreign lottery schemes may be fleecing Americans out of as much as a billion dollars each year, and it's getting worse.

"The fraudsters are relentless -- even ruthless. They won`t stop until seniors have no more money to send and then they will recruit them to get money from other seniors," U.S. Postal Inspector Frank Schissler said.

Contact 6 says you should always remember -- no legitimate lottery will ask you for money up front. Keep that in mind when you receive calls and letters in the mail, and emphasize that message to elderly friends, family members and neighbors.