Last week Donald Loudon of Claremont received a letter in the mail informing him that he was one of the second place winners in the Publishers Clearing House “25 Million Dollars super cash giveaway promotions- sponsored by Readers digest, Mega Million and Multi- State Lottery Association.” We have left in all the misspellings, punctuation, and spacing errors that led to Mr. Loudon's quick realization that he was looking at a scam.
In this era of constant emails from Nigerian princes with cash flow problems, it is easy to forget that grifters still operate through the U.S. mail. The envelope Loudon received included the letter and a check for $6,976 that was watermarked “VOID” and he was instructed not to cash it. “Note, all processing fees have been calculated in the enclose check …” read the letter. “This fees are mandatory and are meant to satisfy official laws including income tax protocols as mandated by the federal government through various agencies across the nation.” The Eagle Times is not one to throw stones in the area of shaky proofreading, but this letter was littered with mistakes. The check was also improbably issued by “Karl's Transport Inc.” in Antigo, Wisconsin, a small town just east of Wausau.
“We have received letters like this in the past,” said Loudon. “The parts about just giving me so much money, but not letting me deposit same, and having the same basic scenario alerted me” to its inauthenticity. While Loudon had seen this basic approach before, he had not received a letter purporting to be from Publishers Clearing House before.
He contacted the venerable company. “Publishers Clearing House said they would make their upper echelons aware of this scam,” Loudon said.
The Federal Trade Commission is aware of the scam. Their website calls it “an oldie but a goodie.” Loudon's letter instructed him to call the Clearing House claims department. According to the FTC, had he made the call he may have been instructed to deposit the check and send some of the money back for “made up expenses.” The FTC has three straightforward pieces of advice:
Never send money to collect a prize, sweepstakes check, or lottery winnings. If you have to pay, it’s a scam.
Never deposit a check and send back money, even if the funds appear in your account. That’s a sure sign of a scam.
If anyone calls asking you to pay for a prize, hang up and report it to the FTC.
This was not the first time Loudon had dealt with a grifter. “We have been approached with scams such as this in the past,” he said, “as well as being called by the 'IRS' last year demanding money. I heard that year of a foreign woman who lost her entire life savings to these con artists. If I can keep just one person from being flim flammed, I will!”
-- BILL CHAISSON