Patricia Stevens of Boise questioned how her name was on a list of people selected for a contest entry.
“READ AT ONCE,” the gigantic bold letters stated. The letter, from Prize Directives Center, said she may enter immediately to win. “You cannot win and collect $2,000,000 without this entry.”
The letter failed to explain how she had been selected, who else was on the list, or how many people were on it. It only stated she was on the list.
It instructed her to check a box and return the Prize Entry required procedures form and pay a $5.95 processing fee.
Upon return of the form, she would be included in the ITD Benefits Program. It never fully defines the program, but “assures you huge discounts on merchandise, on travel and vacations, on airfare, hotels and more.”
The small print on the procedures form reads that by sending the check and checking the box, she authorizes not only electronic cashing of that check — for $5.95 — but also authorizes a monthly debit from her checking account of $19.90 until cancellation in writing is made.
“Do people really do this?” Stevens asked with disbelief, citing the form that listed six alleged winners.
Prize Entry Directives, 14 Vanderventer Ave., Port Washington, N.Y., has an F rating with the Better Business Bureau. The BBB cites five factors for the low rating, including complaints filed and concerns with the industry in which the business operates.
Do not allow the enticing dollar signs to obstruct common sense. Remember these tips:
Æ Are you being directed to wire money, provide access to your bank account or credit card numbers or send any personal financial information to claim your sweepstakes or lottery winnings? This tactic is used to steal your money or identity by a person masquerading as a sweepstakes or lottery official.
Æ Legitimate sweepstakes do not need you to pay taxes, customs fees, shipping or handling, or any other fee before awarding your winnings; and are prohibited by U.S. law from asking you to buy something to enter a sweepstakes contest or to receive sweepstakes mailings.
Æ Did you ever actually enter the company’s sweepstakes? Chances are, you did not.
Æ Read the fine print on any sweepstakes offer or entry form that you receive in the mail. It’s amazing what you’ll learn (much like Patricia discovering an entry would turn over access to her bank account).
Æ Do not be deceived by seals, official-sounding names, or terms that imply affiliation with or endorsement by a government entity, here or abroad. It is illegal for a promoter to misrepresent a government organization or other well-known organization.
Æ If you have truly won a prize, whether it is a cash card, gift certificate or product, there should be no redemption fees, postage fees, delivery fees, or other conditional rules to follow to receive your prize.
Æ Responding to just one foreign lottery ticket or one fraudulent sweepstakes notice or one prize award solicitation can open the door to many more bogus offers. Ignore all such offers.
Robb Hicken: 947-2115