Postmaster helps victim untangle himself from sweepstakes mess

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- It's a scam involving hundreds of millions of dollars, and you can be easily lured in. In one case, a post office manager became suspicious and helped a victim realize he was a victim before it was too late.

"You get to know your customers on a personal level and you know what they receive on monthly/weekly basis almost," Postmaster William Gomez said.

That's why Gomez says he was suspicious when he noticed one of his customers was coming in more regularly.

"Once there was numerous pieces -- several weekly express pieces going and coming from out of the country -- a flag was set off, an alarm immediately," Gomez said.

The postmaster says he began to suspect his customer had gotten entangled in a lottery sweepstakes scheme.

"When you know something, you just have a gut feeling, you have to stop this because it could be devastating to someone's financial future," Gomez said.

Sweepstakes scams are costing Americans more than $120 million a day. Thousands of people are falling victim to the promise of big winnings.

"He basically told me he would be receiving a large amount of money as soon as he takes care of his end on it," Gomez said.

Gomez says eventually, his customer realized it was a scam, but it took awhile.

"These scammers that do this thing are so good at what they do," Gomez said.

Postal inspectors want all customers to remember this advice:

"Nobody is going to require fees up front -- especially fees of several thousand dollars," U.S. Postal Inspector Anthony Rose said.

Postal inspectors say many of the victims of foreign lottery scams are elderly. If you have older relatives or neighbors, it is advised you discuss these schemes, and make sure they realize no legitimate lottery will ever ask for money up front.