A pensioner has told how she lost her £26,000 life savings in a lottery scam.
Ms Winters was asked to sell her home
Joan Winters, 82, of Darlington, County Durham, paid out the cash after falling victim to phone calls and letters from abroad claiming she had won £400,000.
She said fraudsters conned her into thinking she could collect the "windfall" if she paid out for lawyers' fees and bank transfers.
Durham Police is warning the area is being "deluged" by scam letters, with more than 50 complaints in recent days.
Ms Winters said the fictitious company even asked her to sell her home when she eventually told them she had run out of money.
"They would say the money is going to be there but we have hit another snag and the gaming commission want so much or the tax people want so much," she said.
"I told them I could no longer do it as I had nothing left and they said 'have you heard of equity - you own your home?'.
"They wanted me to sell it to the last brick to try and get what I was supposed to have won."
Insp Geoff Smith, of Durham Police, said the force had received more than 50 complaints about foreign lottery scam letters last weekend alone.
He said: "We become aware of them in Durham when people report it to us but there are thousands of these things.
"They come in through crates to airports and are distributed across the country."