"Just throw it in the garbage:" Cautious consumer warns others about sweepstakes scams

MIAMI — The letter seems genuine and the promise of a fortune makes it even more alluring, but one cautious consumer has some advice on what to do if it lands in your mailbox.

"I have street smarts, so that is why I knew," said Jacqueline Marino.

Marino has received hundreds of lottery sweepstakes letters at her home, but she knows better.

"You always got to look if they want money back and, if so, just throw it in the garbage. It’s false. It’s fake, you know? They are just stealing your money," Marino said.

One example of the the lottery sweepstakes scam letters that are sent out.

Marino admits the letters can look legitimate and she knows a lot of people can be easily fooled.

Scam artists mail hundreds of thousands of solicitations trying to get someone to bite.

"It has their name on it and it tells them that they are the lucky winner and they have been chosen out of hundreds of people," explained U.S. Postal Inspector Michelle Purnavel.

All they need to do is send $20 to receive information about the sweepstakes.

"In essence, all they are really receiving is a report of sweepstakes, which they can then enter," Purnavel said.

Recipients don't often see the fine print written on these solicitations and that's by design.

"It’s a very small print, very fine color, you know? Maybe like a light blue. So you really can’t tell. So they don’t realize it really does state that it is for entertainment purposes only," said Purnavel.

Unfortunately, senior citizens are often the target.

"They know they are being targeted because they are elderly.  It makes them feel mad, upset sometimes, embarrassed," Purnavel said.

"You know, you can’t trust people today. It’s a different world than when you grew up," Marino said.

If you have elderly neighbors or loved ones, ask them if they’ve received any packages or letters with a solicitation for money.  If they did, contact authorities.

Bottom line, if you haven't entered a sweepstakes — the genuine-looking letters in the mail are too good to be true.

"If you didn’t enter a sweepstakes, or you didn’t sign up for anything and you are receiving something in the mail, I wouldn’t pay any money. I would never send money out," Purnavel advised.

"You just don’t give your money and don’t give your credit card number. You don’t give your debit card number, your Social Security number —nothing," Marino said.