The Coastal Post - January, 1996

Holiday Scams And Big Checks In The Mail


How would you like to receive a check for $7,500 just before the holiday season. Who wouldn't think, "I'm finally having a little luck just when I really need it?!"

The mail box reveals a window envelope with PERSONAL & CONFIDENTIAL RE: Procedures for payment of up to $7,500.00 check to: my name. Hummm...

It's not a bulk rate envelope. And enclosed is a check for $7,500 "IN RE: Sweepstakes cash award. Disbursement held pending winning number registration and presentation."

Oh boy! The check looks real. But it isn't signed.

The letter announces, "I regret that the enclosed contingent check is not signed, but our strict security procedures provide that we cannot sign and issue the enclosed bank check to you unless you contact us with the security code preselected for the Grand Prize and verify your correct mailing address." The letter adds that I will lose my guaranteed award check if I fail to respond. A guaranteed award check!

You can register your security code 732-406-035 by mail or by phone, the letter says. The security code matches the one on the check. "Do not reveal your security code to anyone until you have registered it with our office. It is so important you respond by mail or phone promptly so we may issue your check."

Holy Zeus, this is sounding really good.

Let's see. I can use the mail or make a phone call. But wait! The number is a 900 number. That's going to cost me some money. The letter says it will cost $3.98 per minute, 6 minute average, $23.88. Naaaaw. I'll use the mail.

How do I do that?

"To register by mail, clip and affix (no staples) name, address and Security Code check number and legibly print your date of birth (optional) and home telephone number on a standard USPS 20¢ postcard and mail to address above. No purchase/call required."

This sounds like a hassle. I don't have a USPS postcard and the phone is right here to use. After all, the letter says I've got a guaranteed award check coming. But $23.88 for a phone call...that's a lot of money for a phone call.

There's a schedule of cash awards at the top of the letter. It says, "As a recipient of this advisory you are guaranteed a cash award of up to $7,500. Based on assigned check numbers, the following awards are being disbursed providing check number registry is made before deadline: $7,500.00; $2,500.00; $1,000.00; $750.00, $175.00; $1.00." I can't seem to find the deadline anywhere. No deadline, but I've got to register before the deadline.

If I contact them it says a check will be issued and rushed to me by USPS. Is that United Parcel. No. That's the United States Postal Service. I could really use the cash award now. Maybe I should call. The mail is slow. It looks like I've got four chances in five to get between $175.00 and $7,500.00.

Wait. I missed something. "Your cash payment is awaiting prompt claimÑaccording to rules, odds, etc., on reverse, you must contact us as soon as possible."


Go to the reverse side. "Awards and odds (1) $7,500.00 (1:4,998,468). That means one chance in 4,998,468 to win $7,500. Huh? The same odds for $2,500, $1,000, $750 and $175. The odds to win $1, one buck, are 1:1. I'm guaranteed a check for $1. What a deal. I'll spend $23.88 on a phone call and get a check for one buck in the mail.

With the 1:4,998,468 odds, it must mean almost 5 million of these letters went out. And everyone of those a guaranteed $1 winner. It cost them $1.26 for each award and letter. That's $1,260,000. to put out the sweepstakes and pay a dollar if everyone responds. If only one in five bite on the phone call, they will take in $2,387,268.00. They'll make more than a million bucks if there are enough holiday suckers out there to call and find out they won a buck.

I wonder if they have to pay capital gains?

I didn't call. Happy Holidays.