Con artists target victims with lottery sweepstakes

Jason Oliveira Image
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Con artists target victims with lottery sweepstakes
When it comes to saving your family a fortune, it's best to just say "no."

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Chances are we've all dreamed of winning millions of dollars, and it's that desire con artists like to prey on. When it comes to saving your family a fortune, it's best to just say "no."

"Mother, you need to, you're not going to win, you know? The chances of you winning this is one in a bazillion." That was Diane Hainer's advice to her mother, Madalyn, who refused to stop opening and reading lottery sweepstakes offers arriving in the mail. Every one of them asked for an upfront processing fee.

"My mother would say, 'I'm winning.' I'd say, 'Mother, when you send these fees in, this is a scam. A real contest, you go buy a lottery ticket,'" said Hainer.

"At some point, she started getting phone calls," said Hainer. The calls were non-stop, all day. So, Hainer and her siblings had their parents' number changed to put an end to the calls and scams, but that didn't happen.

"The mailings started out as one or two, and then within two months' time, the mailbox was stuffed," said Hainer.

"I said, 'No more for this.' I says, 'You're getting on my nerves, and you're making me go crazy with this stuff.' I says, 'Stop it!'" said Alfred Innocenti, Madalyn's husband.

Despite her husband's pleas, Innocenti's wife of 64 years continued to send money to the sweepstakes scam artists.

"I was really distraught with the fact that no matter what we said, my brother, my sister or myself, even my dad, we weren't telling her the truth. She was going to win," said Hainer.

So, with the consent of her father, Hainer asked postal employees to suspend delivery of sweepstakes mail to the address. The Postal Service complied.

"Within two days, the mailings have stopped. Now, it's only good for two years, but it's two years of peace of mind," said Hainer.

Hainer says her mother lost at least $3,000, but she knows it could have been much worse had the post office not stepped in.