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Mail scams continue to surface locally

It’s hard enough to survive in today’s economy without scams floating around. Yet Chilton County is not immune to those who would benefit from our gullibility.

Willodean Payton of Clanton got suspicious when she opened a letter informing her that she had won an “unclaimed prize” for the amount of $75,000. An enclosed check for $3,170.66 was also included.

The letter claimed to be from Reader’s Digest but contained several features that gave it away as a scam. When photocopied, the word “VOID” appeared on the check in two places.

“You don’t see void on the check, so they did a good job with it,” said Carl Headley, Payton’s nephew.

Also, the letter requires the winner to pay a “processing fee” before his or her funds can be released, and provides a contact number for a “claims agent” the recipient is asked to call for further instructions.

The term “not valid after 30 days” appears on the check, and the letter states that “all prizes must be claimed no later than Aug. 4, 2008 at which date any unclaimed funds shall be forfeited.”

Headley also noticed that the envelope was sent with a clearly licked stamp, which is unorthodox for mail sent by large direct marketing companies.

Another big indicator is that the letter was mailed from Canada. Local law enforcement investigators have routinely warned people that such scams are usually based outside of the U.S., making it virtually impossible to recover any lost money.

Those who are targeted are also warned not to call any phone numbers that appear on the letter.

Anyone who receives a suspicious letter is asked to report it to the police.