The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Opinion

April 26, 2014

You're a winner: Pay to learn how much

A Clinton man was kind enough to share his story about the pitfalls of direct mail “sweepstakes winnings.”

The fellow received an official-looking piece of mail, entitled “Financial Entitlement Distribution.” The front side of the letter described a “monetary prize opportunity” of more than $2.3 million. The letter was sprinkled with phrases like, “guaranteed cash,” “prize disbursement,” and “monetary settlement,” and “these documents are yours to claim.”

The letter informed our informant this was a time-sensitive matter, and he needed to respond in 10 days. At the bottom of the letter, a “confirmation and claim form” was attached. This claim form informed the recipient he needed to enclose a “one-time processing fee” of $25, “to cover assessment costs necessary to release my complete set of Entitlement Papers.”

Our informant, thinking himself a winner, mailed in a check. In a few days, he received similar mail from another company, telling him of an “official award notice.” Again, the mail described millions of dollars available to him, in return for a $30 processing fee.

So he sent another check.

Let’s fast-forward a few weeks. By now, our informant is receiving three or four of these “awards” each week, from at least four different companies. Although the graphics look different, and the return addresses vary, they read pretty much the same, and communicate the same pitch — there is a pot of money available for you — just send in the nominal processing fee to make yourself eligible.

The Clinton man turned over to me 14 pieces of mail to review. The sending companies used these names:

• Worldwide Notification Partners

• Official Award Centre

• Data Division

• Sloan, Keller and Associates

And you are probably thinking, “Wow, what a scam, how can they get away with that in the mail?”

But not so fast.

Each of the letters I read contains a lot of text on the reverse side, which, if read several times, slowly, will tell the reader exactly what is going on. I read each of these, and saw the language as almost identical in each. Each of these “back page instructions” noted:

Text Only
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With the Clinton County Justice Coordinating Commission and the Clinton County Board of Supervisors discussing proposals to construct a new jail, do you think the time has come for Clinton County to construct such a facility?

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