(WMC TV) - All it took was the mailing of one tiny postcard to topple more than 6,000 people.
"Initially, they were solicited to purchase some stamps, so it seemed very innocent," said Shari Delaney, U.S. Postal Inspector.
The innocence was lost once the victims took the bait.
Along came more postcards. More bogus solicitations.
"Each solicitation had a different enticement," Delaney said.
One was a foreign lottery pool. Another was an investment offer in a "high-return" pension fund.
"They could create a pension fund by contributing a dollar a day or portions of their winnings (from the lottery)," said Delaney.
To make it look even more real, victims got an official-looking passbook where they could keep track of their "contributions." Occasionally, victims would even get a little check -- just enough money to keep them on the hook.
Inspectors said when it was all over, more than 6,000 people lost a total of $25 million.
They should have remembered three words: "JUST...SAY...NO."
They should have known this little factoid, too: all foreign lottery offers are scams.
If you or a loved one receives one, shred it and toss it in the garbage.