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Mail scam sweeps into Bratt

By By Janet Little Cooper
It's not everyday that the Publisher's Clearing House prize patrol van pulls up to your house with an entourage of well wishers giving you an oversized check for a million dollars.
But for one Bratt, Fla., couple, they got just as excited after opening their mail last week to find that the wife, Lavelle Davis, had won $50,000 from America National Lotto, Inc., which appeared to represent Publisher's Clearing House and a Reader's Digest sweepstakes.
Along with the letter came a check made out to Davis in the amount of $2,950 from The Chase Manhattan Bank.
"We got pretty excited at first," Colvin Davis said. "Several things stuck out about the letter and the check to me, so I carried the check to our bank in Atmore. The check looked authentic."
Thankfully, Davis' bank was aware of such scams and told him that it was a bogus deal.
"The lady at the bank told me that they do make them to look real, but that if I were to cash it, the bank would be contacting me in a matter of days wanting the money back," Davis said.
The check was to be deposited or cashed immediately according to the letter and sent to the lotto processing office to finalize the unclaimed winnings. It was said to be an advance payment for processing and international tax payments that would be deducted from the total amount won.
"We hope that you'll take advantage of this exclusive opportunity today by calling your claims agent upon receipt of this notification," claims director David Livingston stated in the letter. "Enjoy the benefits of your winning prize. Please note that all prize money must be claimed by July 7, 2006, any unclaimed funds shall then be forfeited."
This statement was just one of the many things that struck the couple as odd. The letter began by stating that the company had made numerous attempts to contact Davis of her winnings by telephone.
"We never received a phone call, there was never an attempt," Davis said. "Then we were alarmed about the turn around of two days for the money to be sent back and just the fact that money had to be sent back. Our daughter also noticed that the names Publisher's Clearing House and Reader's Digest were not capitalized or spelled properly."
Davis also carried to the letter and the check to the Atmore Police Department. Law enforcement agencies said that this type thing happens all the time and despite how horrible it is, that nothing can be done to stop the scam.
Davis and his wife would not have minded if it were the real deal, but are thankful that it happened to them and not to anyone who may have taken it seriously and actually cashed the check.
"We just hope that this will help inform others about the scam," Davis said. "It is unfortunate that this type thing could happen and some people may actually fall for it."