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Fool's gold, modern life, and Greed Inc.

August 28, 2005 1:06 am

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THIS IS AN open letter to J.D. Emerson, Michael Washington, G.J. de Grasse, James Lewis, the Las Vegas Actionable Award Program, and the one other guy, whose signature is illegible:

I speak for my entire family when I say thank you for the incredible letters you have been sending. You can imagine our joy at the wonderful news that we've won big money in your exciting sweepstakes.

First off, to the guy whose signature I can't make out, we can't thank U.S. Sweepstakes Advisors of Las Vegas enough for the $3,700,300 check you'll be sending our way. We understand from your letter that we are in danger of immediate cancellation, and that can't be good. So thanks very much for sending it in that official IRS-looking envelope, labeled Form W-915. We wouldn't dare overlook that.

Please go ahead and take out the $20 we need to pay you and make the check for $3,700,280.

We're equally appreciative of the Las Vegas Actionable Award Program for the check we're to receive for $3,341,006. "Congratulations from all of us--been trying to reach you," reads the LVAAP's letter. "This is a day you may remember for the rest of your life."

No doubt about that, by golly. No one who gives us $3,341,006 is ever going to be forgotten, that's for sure. If you don't mind, though, please take out $20 we need to send in and make the check for $3,340,986. We'll be waiting!

Thank you as well, Mr. de Grasse, of Payment Access Services, for the check for $676,334.77. It's not for as much as the others, but that 77 cents makes it extra special. And you're in Las Vegas, too. What a coincidence! Here is an actual quote from your letter for everyone to read:

"As disbursement director, I wanted to personally inform you of this incredible news, and let you know, per consumer disclosures herein (reverse of specimen check) how to contact my office to begin the transfer of money, to inform you of the strict filing deadline, and to further inform you of sweepstakes now totaling $676,344.77--a very large sum of aggregate awards to be distributed in accordance with government regulations."

Wow. I have no idea what that means, but you sure have a way with words. Just to save time, please take out the $20.49 Priority Release Fee, and make the check out for $676,324.28.

And Mr. Emerson, we would never overlook you, and Access America Financial Group, for the check for $567,000.87. You all are in Las Vegas, too. How about that. Thanks for letting us know we are "guaranteed winners," and for assuring us that we "have been authorized to claim, and will receive a signed bank check to cash or deposit as you choose."

How clever of you and your organization to send such an official-looking check in such an official-looking envelope. Why, I was about to take it right to the bank until I noticed the little words, "not negotiable/not a check" down in the corner. Aren't you the kidder. Almost put one over on me.

Anyway, just take out the $24 you asked me to send in and make the check for $566,976.87.

Mr. Lewis, it's nice of you to write also, although I guess times are a little tough over there at the Advanced Documenting Institute, because your check is for only $125,000. But since your company is in Las Vegas as well, maybe you could visit Payment Access Services, Access America Financial Group, Las Vegas Actionable Awards Program, and U.S. Sweepstakes Advisors, and see how they're able to have bigger checks to send out.

I think part of it might be that you're asking me to send in only $2.75, which you can go ahead and deduct from the check before you send it.

You do have a plan that would allow you to debit my checking account $2.75 a month for the rest of my life. The others don't have that very convenient option, so maybe you could teach them a thing or two.

Last, but certainly not least, thank you, Mr. Washington of American Sweepstakes Publishers of Shawnee Mission, Kan., for the Official Cash Prize Data Documentation Certificate for $254,204. I appreciate your honesty in saying that I have to actually enter in order to win the money.

Well, consider me entered, and just take the $12 fee out and send along a check for $254,192.

Thanks to all of you. It's nice to know we won't have to worry about house payments, college savings, or paying for new cars. In fact, I'm going to go and quit my job right now. Thanks for letting me know that working for a living is for losers, and not for us sweepstakes winners!

P.S. Just to be perfectly clear, all of these crackpot jackpot notices--and this is just a recent sampling--came to my mom, who, at 85, is a typical recipient, according to the government and various consumer advocacy agencies.

These companies prey on older Americans by using legalese and official-looking documents that draw them into scams that quickly multiply themselves. Enter one, and your name and address appear to be shared by all.

Many older people are particularly concerned about the possibility of losing an opportunity or missing a deadline. For some, the size of the estate they will pass along is a report card on the success of their lives--and here is a last chance to build on it.

"This matter is extremely time sensitive and requires your immediate attention," says one letter.

"Voucher must be postmarked by the date below or you forfeit all claims," says another.

"Do not delay. Mail this form at once. Response required," insists still another.

"You will definitely receive the entire [amount] in cash and awards." Can it be more deceiving than that?

These operations legitimize themselves by including disclaimers to cover their legal bases, and by citing laws that require all funds to be distributed. They probably consider it an honest way to make a buck. They ask people to send in money, and people voluntarily send money in.

But that doesn't stop others from warning people against such scams, or from labeling such "entrepreneurs" as some of the planet's lowest life forms.

The first rule of eradicating vermin is to remove the source of sustenance, or in this case, to deny these people the money that allows them to remain active and proliferate.

It's junk mail, so just throw it away.

P.P.S. I was just kidding about quitting my job. Heh, heh.

RICHARD AMRHINE is a writer and editor with The Free Lance-Star.





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