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Working Lunch Wednesday, 5 February, 2003, 16:24 GMT
Misleading mailshots
Misleading ad
If it asks for money, ignore it
You've probably had one of those letters through the post promising you untold riches.

It seems all you have to do is send off an administration fee and a fortune will be yours.

Now the Advertising Standards Authority has upheld complaints against one company which, it says, misled people into thinking they were in the money.

The company, RSI, said in its material that prizes of 500,000 were available.

Competitions

It asked for a processing fee of 20.

"Everybody gets these," says Graham Hebblethwaite of West Yorkshire Trading Standards.

GRaham Hebblethwaite, West Yorkshire Trading Standards
Graham Hebblethwaite: "It's misleading"
"This one looks as if you've won half a million pounds but all you're going to get when you send in your 20 processing fee is a report telling you how to enter competitions.

"Lots of people find it misleading so it was referred to the Advertising Standards Authority."

The ASA agreed the mailshot was misleading about what was on offer and that people might think they had won - or were being given the chance to win - a cash prize.

It told RSI to withdraw the mailing. The company did not respond to the ASA's inquiries.

Mailing lists

"The one point we want to make clear is that if people respond to these, they have a disproportionate chance of being involved in lots more junk mailshots because their name and address will go on mailing lists and they'll just suffer more and more of these," says Graham.

Working Lunch receives lots of these letters from viewers asking what to do with them:

  • One promised a 950m pool of prizes from the Spanish lottery - it asked for a fee of 19.95
  • Another said 1.8m was on offer for a 15 fee
  • And 20m was the lure in another, in return for 14.95.

    It might seem that the money is just a step away.

    But your next step should really be to put them in the bin.

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