Iowa’s consumer-protection division is intercepting someone else’s mail in an attempt to stop a prize scam. Spokesman Bob Brammer in the Attorney General’s office says it’s not the first time they’ve been alerted to phony sweepstakes promises. An alert Iowan in Brooklyn forwarded two different mass-mailed solicitations that appear to violate Iowa’s law on prize promotions, claiming the recipient’s close to winning a huge sweepstakes, something like a million bucks. The catch, of course, was that the victim was asked to send in cash to claim the big prize. What caught the eye of investigators was that they were to send their 29-95 to a post-office box in Des Moines. Investigators worked with the Post Office to find out where mail was forwarded from there, and then got a judge’s order to impound that mail. The money sent in by targeted victims was apparently being forwarded to Canada. Brammer says there’s a danger in responding to such phony offers, besides losing the money people send in. What they’re really doing, he explains, is putting themselves on a “hot list” for mailers or telemarketers who’ll target them for scams aimed at taking them for much more money. With its elderly population Brammer says Iowa’s a more common target for such scams than some other states. He says most of the biggest offenders were driven out of the U.S. with techniques pioneered in Iowa. In the late 1990s an undercover telephone “sting” pioneered in Iowa’s consumer office was taken up by prosecutors all over the country, and drove out the scammers, but he says they migrated…to Canada. And from across the international border, some continue to cheat Iowans. It’s hard to go after a business based in Canada, as he says many attorneys general struggle with prosecuting such cases. In the meantime, “Provincial Prize Reporting Associates” and “Gold Coast Publishing” of Vancouver, British Columbia, will not receive mail the attorney general’s office is intercepting.
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