Elderly Woman Scammed Out of $200k

Money went to sweepstakes offers; her name was likely on a "suckers list"

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Mark Segraves reports on a growing trend of mail fraud preying on the elderly. (Published Wednesday, Mar 5, 2014)

    Shree Nudd's mother has only a pile of letters, money order receipts and cheap jewelry to show for her life's savings.

    Her money -- "north of $200,000," according to her daughter -- went to a series of sweepstakes, contests and offers that came in her mail, promising a big payday if she just sent them a little money.

    "They left her with only debt," Nudd said.

    It's a familiar scam, but one that still finds plenty of victims, especially among the elderly. And the effects are devastating.

    "These criminals are just ruthless; they won't stop until they have taken that person's last dollar," said Frank Schissler with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

    Shree Nudd said her mom had worked for her entire nest egg. "She was a farmer's daughter," Nudd said. She worked hard and saved and made some wise investments, and she built a little nest egg for herself."

    But then came the lottery and sweepstakes letters -- asking only for small amounts at first. Then, postal inspectors say, Nudd's mother's name was added to a "sucker list" of victims who would respond.

    "Then they get innudated with phone calls that they have won a sweepstakes or won a car," Schissler said.

    Nudd said she realized something was terribly wrong when her mother used up $68,000 in certificates of deposits in about 5 months.

    "It's literally in the hundreds of millions of dollars that American seniors are losing every year," the postal inspector said.

    Postal officials say these crimes are hard to prosecute because most of the suspects operate in foreign countries like Canada and Jamaica. But the postal service has made some arrests and just opened an office in Jamaica.

    They also have a whole website devoted to educating people about these scams. It reminds everyone: You never have to purchase an item or pay a fee to enter and win a sweepstakes, and, under U.S. law, buying something will not increase your chances of winning.

    And they urge everyone to check on elderly loved ones -- including checking their finances.

    If you have been a victim, or your loved ones have been victimized, call U.S. Postal Inspectors at 877-876-2455.