CAPITOL HEIGHTS, Md., (WUSA) -- "I buy things from Publishers Clearinghouse all the time,"
Willie Stevens loves flipping through the product fliers stuffed inside her sweepstakes envelope.
"I want this, my flowers, my mat," says Stevens.
She buys household gadgets, gizmos and gifts for her grandchildren.
After 20 years of entering the popular contest, the Capitol Heights senior citizen says she received a surprising call from a women saying she was with Publishers Clearinghouse, and to contact a Mr. Michael right away. So she did.
Stevens says, "He told me he worked with Dave Sorer. And, that he would be here with Channel 9 news to present me with my winnings. You're a second place winner and we need $5,200 for you to pay your tax!"
Willie always dreamed of being one of the squealing and elated winners. But, she sensed something just wasn't quite right when she was told to wire the money to a West Virginia address.
So she hung up, and then called WUSA 9.
"You didn't have an appointment. You weren't going to be here," says Stevens.
Willie was the target of a sweepstakes scam that's sweeping thousands of dollars from the pockets of unsuspecting consumers all across the country.
In 2012, the Federal Trade Commission received more than 98,000 complaints related to these schemes. The agency estimates one sweepstakes scam took in more than $11 million, mostly from senior citizens.
FTC Sues To Stop Massive Sweepstakes Scam
"The reason why they approach you is really two-fold, either to get your money or to get your personal indentying information.
Credit.com's Adam Levin says don't take the bait.
Even the popular sweepstakes Publishers Clearinghouse has posted tips and warnings on its website to warn customers about this growing trend.
PCH Consumer Information Tips and Warnings
Levin says, "This is your asset. This is your portfolio, and you need to protect it like you would protect any other investment that you have."
And as for Willie Stevens, well, she says she now knows what to do when the scammers come calling.
"Tell somebody before you go out and give them your money."