I received a "Confirmed Prize Notification Winner" from a company called "Sweepstakes Information Reporting Services" claiming that I had won 525,439.00. I went on the "ripp off report" website and saw that people had already received such letters, sent money, and not heard back. Since I don't believe it is possible to win contests you haven't entered, I hadn't planned on sending money in. However, the letter seems very realistic.
The only red flag for me was the back of page one two paragraphs that seemed to indicate that money had not been won and they are written in much more complicated language than the other two front pages of the letter.
For those of you who have also received this letter, please check the back of your letters and see if you have these paragraphs (because they would most likely protect a company from a lawsuit, similar to the sentence on the back of fake ID's that says "This is for novelty purposes only".)
Here is a sample of the second paragrah of the back of page one:
"This offer is an opportunity to purchase an easy-to-read and understand report that compiles entry details for cash awards and prize opportunities including, skill contest entries, sweepstakes and merchandise offers that are offered to the public by independent sponsors. Cash and prize opportunities totaling the advertised minimum amount will be included in each issue. We will provide complete entry, deadline and prize information to purchaser.
We do not sponsor sweepstakes, contests or merchandise promotions. We do not guarantee the cash or prizes advertised by the sponsorint entities. Reported information is believed to be accurate at time of printing. However, if the information is in error, we are responsible only for the fee paid to obtain the report. Offer is void where prohibited by law.
We make no express or implied representations, warranties or agreements. Consumer has not won any of the listed prize or cash awards. Consumer must enter and win each individual promotion to be eligible to collect the advertised awards. 60-day money-back guarantee if dissatisfied for any reason--no questions asked. To receive a refund, send your written request to the address listed".
It claims to get your money refunded, you need to write the company and ask for it back. If you did not get a refund, you would have grounds to pursue legal action. Of course, there may already be a way to claim fraud even with the legal disclaimer on the back.
Also, it refers to you as the "consumer" indicating you have exchanged your twenty bucks for a service.
It would be interesting to know if they are targeting low-income neighborhoods; I live in one, but I'm not sure if it's a pattern or coincedence. It would add another level of sleeziness to the scheme.
Also, go to this website: http://www.wfsb.com/Global/story.asp?S=2721034 ...the local news in this state is doing a story on S.I.R.S. if you'd like to complain to a media outlet. Contact your local media if you've really upset; they might like the angle as a consumer interest story.