NAPLES, Fla. - When single mother Mary Ann Shaffer scratched a lottery ticket last week, she thought Christmas had come early.
The ticket indicated she was a $25,000 winner.
"I said, 'Oh my God, it's a miracle,' " Shaffer told the Naples Daily News.
She looked on the back to find a telephone number to claim her winnings.
Elation quickly turned to sadness as she realized the ticket, given to her by a customer at her concession stand, was fake.
"Claim forms supplied by Santa Claus. All winning tickets must be validated by the tooth fairy and conform to her game rules. . . . All winners are losers and must have an excellent sense of humor," the ticket read.
"How can anyone be so mean around Christmastime?" said Bear Terstegge, a Naples Beach Patrol officer who examined the ticket.
Word about the fake ticket spread quickly around the Naples pier where Shaffer sells hot dogs and water.
"It touched everybody's heart," Terstegge said.
In the last few days, Shaffer, who has two young children, has received cards, gift certificates and hefty tips. One regular brought presents for her kids.