A Fox Valley man received a letter from "Reader's Digest" along with a check for $2734.12 from"Goodwill of Greater Washington" and a promise of a huge sweepstakes.
But this letter wasn't really from "Reader's Digest." It was from scammers trying to get his money.
"I was excited," said the victim, who wished to remain anonymous. "And then I read the letter closely. A half a million dollars. Wow."
He called to claim his sweepstakes prize.
"I said, 'I want to know when I get my half million dollars.'
He said, 'we'll send it in 3 to 4 working days after you cash the check and we get time to process this.'
I said, 'I have to cash the check.'
'Right, yes, that's going to be for expenses that you'll have incurred when the big prize comes.'"
That was his first clue that something wasn't right.
Upon further investigation, he saw the "Reader's Digest" symbols had been cut out and pasted on the letter.
The victim, a subscriber to "Reader's Digest," held on to a glimmer of hope.
"So, I believed it until I started going in depth. And the deeper I got, I thought 'they're not sending me any money, honey. The party's over. They want my money,'" the man said.
He contacted Target 2 and we contacted "Reader's Digest."
The magazine's public relations manager confirms the letter is not from "Reader's Digest." They no longer run large scale cash sweepstakes.
The New York address on the letter head and the phone number listed on the letter were not for "Reader's Digest." The person who signed the letter, John Cain, isn't in their company directory.
"Reader's Digest" issued the statement to Target 2:
Thanks again for following up and
giving us the opportunity to help educate your viewers about sweepstakes scams.
As a rule, Reader's Digest never asks sweepstakes winners for money. No
reputable company asks you to pay to claim your prize. If someone
receives a letter or a phone call asking for money, we recommend that they
contact the local authorities, especially if they have given out personal
information or sent money to the caller. If someone receives a legitimate
notification letter, the instructions for claiming the prize will be very
Also, the check from "Goodwill of Greater Washington" was a fake.
Goodwill thanked Target 2 for contacting them about the scam. Here's their statement:
The checks are a forgery and are
a reproduction of Goodwill of Greater Washington payroll checks. How the
criminals got a hold of one we don't know. We are victims of this crime also.
As soon as we learned of the fraudulent activity, we immediately notified our
bank, Reader's Digest and the FBI. We have financial security systems in place
that would prevent them from being cashed, so Goodwill is in no danger of
losing money. We just hope that no one falls victim to this scam. So far we
have only seen a handful of checks presented.
Meanwhile, the victim hopes his story will help prevent people from being tricked into falling for the sweepstakes scam.
"I hope that nobody is going to be ripped off in 'Reader's Digest' name and I hope we can do something to stop it."
The first step to stopping this type of fraud: report it.
Target 2 sent both the letter and forged check to a postal inspector in Milwaukee who tells us it is mail fraud, and they will investigate.
Postal inspectors say it's not beyond scammers to use such a well known name like "Reader's Digest."
If you get one of these letters, file a claim with U.S. Postal Inspectors. Every bit of information helps them track down the con artists.