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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

"You've won free gold!" scam

Apr 28, 2023 01:29PM ● By Arthur Vidro

We all love hearing we’ve won something for free. But instead, we should ask, “Why is this person or business giving me something for nothing? How does it benefit them?” Because if it doesn’t obviously benefit them, then there’s a catch somewhere, and it’s going to cost you.

A curious envelope arrived last week. The return address was a post office box in Broomfield, Colorado, but no person or corporate name appeared above the box number. When no specific person or company is identified on the envelope as the sender, that often means they know you would throw it away unopened if you knew who it was from.

The postage was for standard mail, which usually means junk mail. If you see “standard mail” on an envelope, proceed with caution.

My instinct was to trash it right away. But on the chance it might help some of my readers, I opened it. It contained a cover letter, a second letter, a claim voucher and a return (non-stamped) envelope.

The cover letter inside identified the sender as Mountain View Publishers. It began, in extra-large, bold type: “It’s confirmed. You are a guaranteed prize winner!” The letter explained I was selected to receive a free prize. As for why I was selected, it said, “because of your past participation in a number of major sweepstakes promotions.”

That pseudo-explanation is just advertising puffery. It identified the prize as “a genuine 24-karat gold keepsake. For the record, that’s 99.99% PURE GOLD—and it’s all yours—free and clear!” 

The letter was signed with an illegible (but computer-generated) scribble, above the title “MVP Editor.”

Fact-checking time

Yes, there’s an entity called Mountain View Publishers, and yes, they “reside” at the box number given as the return address. The cover letter did not include a phone number. Without a phone number, and without the name of a person to ask for, good luck trying to speak to the sender.

No, I don’t participate in sweepstakes.

Now let’s look closer

To claim your free 24-karat gold prize, you must return the official claim voucher. But you also have to enclose a personal check for $2.75 made payable to the publisher. The “free” prize isn’t given to you unless you pay the fee, which gains you the current issue of something called Jackpot Journal. (For folks preferring to pay with a credit card, there’s space for that information on the voucher’s back.)

Oh, and you have to sign and date the claim voucher. However, by signing the claim voucher, you are authorizing this publisher to debit your account $33 quarterly until, well, perhaps forever.

So the “winner” has to pay money to the company. The “winner” will receive a magazine that isn’t wanted and which the publisher makes a huge profit on, from that $33 quarterly charge.

Folks, this is Exhibit A of a company to which you do NOT want to give your credit card number or access to your checking account.

The second letter in the envelope pitched their products. But on the rear, in faint type, it spelled out all the legalities, which is probably why they’re still in business. A company can obey the letter of the law while still being deceitful, slimy and unethical. The back side of the second letter even included a customer service phone number, which delivers you, during business hours, to a worker well trained in keeping your money going to their company.

The Better Business Bureau has received many complaints about this company. It’s easy to enter a subscription to the Jackpot Journal but difficult to end it. Money that has changed hands is not refunded. 

You are paying them $11 every month—that’s $132 a year. They are giving you a periodical that isn’t worth nearly that much to you.

What about the free gold? 

Some folks complained to the Better Business Bureau that they never received it. But I’m willing to concede Mountain View Publishing is sending out free gold. The faint print on the back of the second letter states that all respondents will receive a 24-karat gold keepsake with an actual retail value of $5.99 (note the decimal point’s location).

That’s right: $5.99. Sounds like the keepsake is a microdot.

Most folks send in their claim vouchers without reading all the way to the bottom of the faint type on the reverse of the second letter. So to receive $6 worth of gold, and a magazine subscription you probably don’t want, you send $2.75 right away and $11 a month for life.

Instead of billing it as a 24-karat gold keepsake, it ought to be billed as fool’s gold. And the folks who send in their money are the fools. Don’t be one of them.

Click here to read about other gold scams.

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