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September 25, 2003

Miller: $52,000 to Time Inc. Sweepstakes Victims

"Deceptive sweepstakes have targeted and victimized older Iowans, but we've worked to prohibit many of the worst abuses and tricks of deception," Miller said.

DES MOINES.   Attorney General Tom Miller said today that checks totaling $52,398 have been sent to 140 Iowans who were considered principal victims of deceptive sweepstakes solicitations sent by Time Inc.

"The payments are going to people who spent the most money responding to Time Inc. solicitations over several years," Miller said. "Just as important, Time has formally agreed not to use a battery of techniques we think deceived many consumers into thinking that they already were winners of big prizes or that making a purchase increased their chance of winning."

Miller said a settlement with Time Inc. ties up one of the final loose ends in what he called "a long campaign to clean up sweepstakes abuse by companies that deceived and cheated especially older Iowans." The Time Inc. settlement agreement is similar to others with sweepstakes giants including Publishers Clearing House, US Purchasing Exchange, American Family Publishing, and others. Most of the companies no longer use sweepstakes solicitations, and Time Inc. also has stopped using them.

As in prior cases, the Time settlement imposes a detailed and strong battery of restrictions on any sweepstakes solicitations. For example, solicitations must not misrepresent that a recipient already has won a prize; must not use personalized simulated checks and other devices without conspicuously disclosing "You Have Not Yet Won" and "This is Not a Check"; and must not disguise bulk mail to appear as personalized courier, express, overnight, or hand-delivery mail.

"Most sweepstakes just can't succeed in deceiving people under the restrictions we and other states have imposed over the last few years," Miller said. "Deceptive sweepstakes have targeted and victimized older Iowans, but we've worked to prohibit many of the worst abuses and tricks of deception. Some of the worst offenders have been forced to abandon their deceptive sweepstakes altogether, and we have reached agreements that should serve to reform the practices of others."

Miller said his office learned over the years that many older Iowans had spent thousands of dollars on magazine subscriptions and products they didn't need or want, under a mistaken belief that they already had won huge sweepstakes prizes or were very close to winning.

"We know of Iowans who lost tens of thousands of dollars," he said. "Many had stacks of magazines and unopened merchandise, and some stayed home because they thought a 'prize patrol' was about to show up. Some people were targeted and were sent mailing after mailing."

The checks sent recently to Iowans related to Time Inc. range from $293 to $1039, with most in the range of $300-500.

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