Cleveland widow lost nearly her entire life savings and it could happen to you if you're not careful

CLEVELAND - A huge chunk of her life savings went down the drain. That's what happened when one woman fell for a scam that could have you next on their list.

We have On Your Side advice on how to spot the con-artists when they come calling.

"When you realize it is happening to you, it is very different," said Doris Galinas. 

Everything is different for her now. She’s an 84-year-old widow and retired nurse who spent her life helping others. Now, Galinas is the one in need.

"They called and said I won a big prize from the Mega Millions and there were two cars, a new Mercedes," explained Galinas.

Euphoria quickly turned to frustration when she heard about a catch.

"Taxes. You have to pay for the taxes, the state taxes. It never stopped," Galinas said. 

She began making payments but realized she needed more money.

"They actually convinced her to go and refinance her house and come up with a large source of money,” described U.S. Postal Inspector Michael Gendron. “So, she refinanced her home at their advice and took out $151,000."

Galinas made frequent trips to the post office to send her payments, which caught the attention of postal clerks. 

"We were concerned for her coming in so often mailing via express," said Postal Clerk Daniel Stewart.

So, they asked Galinas point blank if she was caught up in a scam. 

"I believe every clerk who dealt with her tried to explain we didn't feel it was right or something wasn't right about it,” said Stewart. “But, she said she was okay."

"They would say we just want to make sure you're not being scammed,” said Galinas. “And I said, ‘Oh no. I'm not being scammed'."

The clerks decided to notify postal inspectors about Galinas. 

"They have absolutely no mercy when it comes to exploiting our senior citizens,” explained Gendron. “So, the best thing we can possibly do is talk about it so that everybody knows how the schemes operate."

Galinas lost a staggering $100,000 to foreign lottery thieves.  

"I thought I was too smart for that but there's nobody that smart," Galinas said.

Here's something important to remember: no legitimate lottery will ask for money upfront if you've won. If you get a call or a letter saying you've won a lottery and have to pay taxes to collect your winning, you can call or contact your local postal inspector via uspis.gov.

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