An 81-year-old Lethbridge woman was defrauded out of $250,000 in a sweepstakes scam and police are warning people to watch out for prize and CRA type scams as tax season ramps up.

On January 14th, a man told Lethbridge police that his elderly mother was the victim of a telemarketing scam and that she had been sending money almost weekly since last March.

Police say the woman received a letter that looked like it was from the Bank of America telling her that she had won a sweepstakes in the U.S.

She thought the letter was real and contacted the sender. She was told to send cash to cover state taxes and insure the money in order to collect the winnings.

The woman was convinced by the scammers, through numerous phone calls, to provide her personal banking information and she continued to make payments.

In mid-January, the callers started telling her that they were from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and that she now owed Canadian taxes on the winnings.

Police say the woman provided about $250,000 in bank drafts to the scammers over a ten month period.

Lethbridge police are investigating and say these types of scams are common.

Investigators say the offenders often claim to be with legitimate or established organizations to appear credible and gain the trust of the person being targeted.

The Better Business Bureau says nearly 500,000 people in Canada and the U.S. have been taken in by sweepstakes, lottery or prize scams over the last three years.

Losses from these types of fraud totaled $117 M in 2017 but the number could be higher as many victims are often too embarrassed to report it.

Police say people need to be vigilant and that if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.

Tax season is coming up and police say scammers could ramp up efforts during this time.

Anyone with concerns related to unsolicited communications claiming to be from CRA is advised to hang up, not respond and to contact the CRA directly to inquire about the status of their account.

For more information on fraud prevention, click HERE.