"They sounded so serious and truthful:" Man caught up in foreign lottery scheme is warning others

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- A convincing phone call leaves a man in debt in a scam that targets the elderly.

"I grew up in a time when you could believe people, and they sounded so serious and truthful. It really had me going," Ray Gibbs said.

Gibbs received a phone call informing him he was the winner of $250,000 and a new Mercedes.

"I needed to send them some money to ensure the check got here okay, and so I did that," Gibbs said.

Once he sent the money, there were more phone calls asking for more money -- and they kept coming.

"And boy, they are smooth talkers. They know what you want to hear in order to get the money out of you," Gibbs said.

"These schemes and these fraudsters are very prolific. They don`t stop, and once you get on one of these lists you`re going to continue to receive these solicitations," U.S. Postal Inspector Joe Stephenson said.

"I would get a stack every day. It was horrible what was going on," Gibbs said.

Postal inspectors estimate Gibbs lost $12,000 in the foreign lottery scheme, but he did have one stroke of luck. Astute post office employees called postal inspectors when they saw Gibbs came in again with a package. The package was intercepted and $5,000 was returned to Gibbs.

"It was very gratifying to return that money to him. You know, he didn`t have that type of money. This was his retirement savings," Stephenson said.

"I chock that up to a lesson learned, and move on, and never let that happen to me again," Gibbs said.

Gibbs says he has some simple advice for others.

"When they get a call saying they won something -- hang up the phone because it`s nothing but a big scam," Gibbs said.

No legitimate lottery will ask you for money up front, so keep that in mind when you receive calls and letters in the mail.