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“I’ve won! I’ve won! Yeah – not so much!” How to protect your loved ones from foreign lottery scams

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- A daughter is struggling to help her mother -- caught up in a foreign lottery scam. So how can you protect your parents or grandparents?

"'Look - I've won! I've won!' 'Yeah, not so much, Mother,' but in her mind, she has," Juan Hood said.

Hood and her 83-year-old mother are estranged because foreign lottery scams have torn her family apart.

"We are looking at having to have her deemed unfit or incompetent and that is going to take an excruciating amount of money. That is going to take an excruciating amount of time and..." Hood said.

Hood says her mother has always entered various sweepstakes that arrive in the mail.

"Even when I was a child. She would play, of course everyone does, Publishers Clearing House," Hood said.

Hood says everything changed when her father died, and her mother was alone.

"I`ve seen decline in her over the last several years," Hood said.

Hood's mother started getting calls telling her she won the lottery, but she just needed to pay the taxes. In another phone call, she was told she won a car, and just had to pay the storage fee.

Hood's mother sent money - over, and over, and over again.

In fact, the post office she used noticed the frequent packages she was sending to various addresses, so the postmaster visited Hood's mother at home.

"As soon as we saw the information she was showing us, I knew then that it was a lot bigger than just, what we initially thought," Postmaster Dwayne Davis said.

Davis tried to explain to Hood's mother than she was dealing with scam artists.

"I said 'quit sending them your money.' She said 'no, I`m not. They are going to help me.' In this case, she trusted the people that she had been talking on the phone more than she trusted us," Davis said.

So far, Hood's mother has lost more than $20,000 and has put herself in debt with all of the international calls. But she won't stop. Postal inspectors were forced to take drastic measures.

"She became so resistant to our talks or working on talking to her clergy or family that it came to the point where, in order to protect her, we had to obtain a federal search warrant to get the money or money orders that in this situation that we knew were going to go through her post office," U.S. Postal Inspector Brad Mahs said.

"I don`t believe my mother will get help until she loses every single penny she`s got and even then I don`t know she would," Hood said.

Hood says it's important for children to have protections in place such as power of attorney over their elderly parents' financial matters so that if something goes wrong, like in this case, you can prevent your parents from losing their life savings.

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