DETROIT, MI - Winning a large sweepstakes prize is a dream come true for many people. However, that dream can quickly become a nightmare if the win notification was actually a sweepstakes scam. The consequences of these scams can be severe, especially for elderly Americans who are often the target.
"Instead of keeping yourself depressed, I’m trying really to more less forget it. To look forward for a better life. Be optimistic." Herman Kho, fraud victim said.
A caller told him he won $3M. He just had to pay the taxes and fees then he would get a big check.
The first time, Kho sent $5,000, but that was just the beginning. Once his savings account was empty, the scammers kept hounding him.
The scammers recommended that he take money from his 401K.
"They said you would get it back because we are representing the government," Kho said. "Of course, that is a lie anyway. So, I did."
"He had cashed out his retirement, insurance plans, any kind of savings that he had, he had opened a home equity loan and he had maxed out his credit cards," Natalie Reda, US Postal Inspector said.
Kho lost $500,000 in the lottery scam, but it still wasn't over. Postal inspectors say the conmen convinced him to be a 'money mule."
Other victims would send Mr. Kho their payments.
"Really, he was just a filter so that they could launder the money through his account and then he would send the money to Canada, to the bad guys," Reda said.
"I’m not totally destitute – but you learn to budget as much as you can in order to live," Kho said.
Inspectors say the elderly are prime targets because it can be hard for them to keep track of their finances. Postal inspectors want to remind everyone that no legitimate lottery will ask for payments in order to get their winnings.