Monday, June 27, 2011

My Mother Fell for a Scam

My 88-year-old mother enters sweepstakes, trying to win money to pay tuition for my sister’s youngest daughter to go to college.  That’s sweet and harmless and only costs a few stamps. In theory somebody might win one of these sweepstakes. Maybe even my mother.  It’s not as if she was playing the lottery or a local numbers game.

Then she got a letter in the mail claiming she had won $1.4 million dollars. “There is much excitement in our offices for you.  Your identification for the Award Payment Data Release has been FINALIZED and APPROVED!”

I’m not sure what that second sentence is supposed to mean.  I think it means, we’ve got your address and we’re sending you this letter.  But that’s not how my mom read it.  She thought she’d won the sweepstakes. 

“Holder of PRIZE/REPORT ID 22785244802 FILED and ON RECORD – Award Payment Data Confirming Amount to be Paid by the Named Sponsors - ***$1,400,000.00 – $ONE MILLION FOUR HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS - ***”

My mom doesn’t have a prize/ report with any number on it.  The letter lists no “named sponsors.”  But all my mom seemed to see was that amount of money.  The letter doesn’t even say she’ll get the money.  Just a report about it.

More weird language.  “The Award Payment Data that is Confirmed for You shall be released as soon as we receive Your Completed Document, so please do so within the next 10 days being sure to enclose the Award Payment Data Release fee of just the $19.99, this is the only fee.”

She sent in the money.  Then she called my brother, who told her to call the FBI.  She called me. She didn’t know the phone number for the FBI.  I looked it up on line for her.  She called them. They told her to take the letter to the Post Office because it is mail fraud.  The Post Office agreed.

My mom is now on a list of people who have fallen for scams.  She just received a letter telling her she has won $2 million and all she has to pay is $34.  I told her that if anybody else bothers her, take the letter to the Post Office, along with the envelope it came in as proof that they used the US Mail to send fraudulent letters.  If they call her, she is to say she got fooled once, and now she checks everything with the FBI.  If she receives it as email, she should click the Report as Junk box so her email provider will know she’s getting criminal invitations.

I think my mom has learned not to fall for mail fraud. And the price was relatively low.  I just hope publicity about this sort of scam will help prevent other people from losing even $19.99. 

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