Blount County couple warns of ‘deceptive’ sweepstakes offer tied to magazines

Investigations

You may have noticed an increase in sweepstakes mailings in your mailbox. It’s that time of year. As the holidays approach, companies of all kinds send offers to win big money.

A couple in Blount County recently received a chance to win half a million dollars. The offer was tied to ordering magazines.

The Florida-based company National Magazine Exchange, a legitimate company, mails notices inviting people to call and enter a “Strike it Rich” sweepstakes. According to the fine print, there will be a prize awarded on August 3, 2020, nearly two years from now. The notice requires you to follow directions to be eligible for the grand prize.

Roy and Mary McMahan believe the letter is deceptive.

“Supposedly a second notice to enter a contest. It’s from National Magazine Exchange. You’re going to win $10,000 weekly for 52 weeks. And I was thinking of all my bills and all I need to pay, I thought, ‘Oh, boy!’ It says no purchase necessary in order to win,” said Mary McMahan.

She followed the three steps described in the notice. She called the toll-free number, confirmed a special ID number and gave her address.

“They just started to ask about magazines which magazines I liked,” Mary McMahan said.

She named three magazines she’d like to order. She said the sales rep offered to throw in a fourth one for free. The date of November 22 was the deadline to enter the contest.

“They said, ‘Well you can put the first payment on MasterCard.’ I said, ‘Sir, I can’t put anymore on MasterCard. It’s almost maxed out now.’  I said I can’t afford it. He said, ‘Well you can put it on a debit card,'” she said.

She said they wouldn’t tell her how much it would cost her. Her husband Roy became suspicious of the sales pitch.

“When I read it, it sounded up and up. But when my wife started talking to them, you could tell what they wanted. It was the numbers of a credit card. Then they wanted the number of a debit card,” he said.

The official prize letter sent to the McMahans says no purchase or payment is required to enter or win the half million dollars to be awarded in August of 2020. The Better Business Bureau’s report for National Magazine Exchange has a grade of C listed for the business, but an alert has been issued.

The BBB report says the company has received complaints alleging billing disputes, misinterpretation of the sweepstakes promotion, and misunderstanding the company’s billing terms. 

“I finally just hung up on them,” said Mary McMahan.

She never learned the cost of the magazines she wanted. Regarding the notice, she has this advice. 

“Study it before you call the number. You’re not going to win anything,” she said.

The Better Business Bureau says National Magazine Exchange has addressed most customer complains by either canceling the customer’s account or responding to questions regarding the sweepstakes promotion and its billing procedures. 

If you receive a sweepstakes offer in the mail, make sure to read the fine print before doing anything else.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

WATE 6 On Your Side Twitter