Who's Winning in This?

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I won! I won! At least that's what it says on the "Urgent Notification" from Publishers Clearing House. Contest director Dorothy Addeo wrote to me, Tad A. Clark (so what that my name's misspelled), last week that I will receive a check, "fully negotiable and instantly redeemable for its cash value in your New York bank" for as much as $100,000.

The letter goes on to say, "In the event a live check is not inside your envelope, simply return the official documents and a prize check in your name will be authorized for issuance with Giveaway regulations." Aha! Is that the loophole? Just what are those Giveaway regulations? Another staff member received the same letter, but we're not holding our breath.

Unfortunately, there are people out there who are holding their breath. Who are thinking they've already won. Who are flying to Florida to claim prizes that aren't theirs to claim. It's a serious situation (see story, page 1). Last month, American Family Publishing created a $750,000 consumer fund for people in New York who ordered subscriptions to increase their chances of winning, according to the New York attorney general. Last week, a Senate panel discussed the issue on Capitol Hill, and the National Association of Attorneys General has created a committee to explore sweepstakes fraud. The Direct Marketing Association's Richard Barton urged Congress to leave things as they are, that the recently proposed Honesty in Sweepstakes Act would put legitimate marketers out of business. I'm not sure this attitude will work. Obviously, someone wants action -- the reason for a Senate hearing. Some strict measures were suggested.

It's not the government's job to meddle in this, but in this time of heavy scrutiny direct marketers need to take a serious look at what they're doing. Me? I'm just waiting by my mailbox to see what I get from Publishers Clearing House. I'll be showing my letters to one of our resident sweepstakes experts and see what he thinks. Stay tuned.

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