"Dear Aspiring Millionaire: What do you believe the chances are that you could be a millionaire within the next six months?"
That opening line of a letter inviting a Utah resident to play a lottery in Germany might better ask recipients what they think their chances are of losing their money and possibly facing criminal charges."Just throw the letter away. Don't even think about risking the law," advises Palmer DePaulis, spokesman for the Utah Attorney General's Office.
The lottery letter in question was received this week by a resident of Layton who says he has no idea how he got on the mailing list of the Northwest German State Lottery.
The cover letter includes a package of materials in which the recipient is told his chances of winning money, Porsche and Mercedes-Benz automobiles, diamonds and luxury vacations are "one out of two."
"Thirty-two new millionaires will start to live their dreams in the next six months," the brochure declares. "You could easily be one of them."
Sounds too good to be true, doesn't it? That's because it is.
"It's a crime," said Randy Tuckett, an inspector in the Salt Lake City office of the U.S. Postal Service.
Because Utah is a non-lottery state it is illegal to mail lottery materials into the state, he said.
DePaulis said he has heard of similar offerings from various other countries, but it doesn't matter whether they're from Germany or Idaho - they're all illegal in Utah whether the transactions occur through the mail, over telephone lines or the Internet.
"People who participate in them run the risk of running afoul of the law," he said.
But even if one is willing to take that risk, there are other considerations, said Bill Beadle, president of the Better Business Bureau of Utah.
"How do you collect even if you win?" Beadle said.
"I heard of someone who was gambling on the Internet and gave their credit card number to place the bet. They supposedly won but couldn't collect. Since they were engaging in an illegal act they couldn't exactly ask the state or federal government to help them collect.
"And how do you even find them? It's just a Web site."
In short, Beadle noted, "Barnum was wrong; there's not a sucker born every minute, there's one born every second."
Playing the Northwest German State Lottery is not cheap. A full ticket costs $701.15 and, yes, they definitely take credit cards from those foolhardy enough to send in their numbers.