The victim was a 74-year-old mother and retired schoolteacher who was cheated out of more than $70,000. She was told by the con men that she had won a multimillion-dollar sweepstakes but would need to pay a fee to cover the taxes.
"She has always been very frugal with her money," her daughter said, "and this is what was so surprising to me, that a stranger could talk her out of such big lump sums of money."
The scam stopped after a North Carolina postal employee noticed the woman sending several express packages. Suspicious, he has asked her to open one up.
"I asked her was she mailing money to someone, that there's often scams going on, where people try to get elderly to mail money," said Derrek Gunning of the U.S. Postal Service.
Gunning called U.S. postal inspectors, who encouraged him to ask the victim to open the package.
"She pulled out some magazines, and between the pages of the magazines were $100 bills," Gunning said.
Inspectors say these con men manipulated the victim into believing they were friends and to keep their dealings secret.
"They have created so much trust within the victims, the perpetrators have, that it makes it hard for anybody to really break through that bond that they have," said U.S. Postal Inspector David Oakley.
If you have an elderly family member, friend or neighbor, postal inspectors say to keep an eye out for red flags. They also remind everyone that no legitimate lottery ever will ask for money up front.