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Dear Abby: Thanks for mentioning the trouble some people get into by investing their hard-earned money in those contests/sweepstakes.

I am a CPA who's had some of my elderly clients taken in by contest/-sweepstakes promoters. One client wrote checks totaling more than $17,500 in 1993. She had received 134 mail solicitations in a single week! Multiple requests came from the same address - each with a slightly different pitch. In addition, there were two or three telephone requests every day.The mail solicitations requested less than $100 - some less than $20; however, the telephone calls were something different. They asked for sums from $500 to $2,500, and "guaranteed" that she had won! If she didn't agree to send the money, they became verbally abusive! (They do not use the U.S. mail - they use Federal Express, thereby avoiding a mail-fraud charge.)

I have spoken with FBI agents regarding those "boiler room" calls. As soon as the FBI finds these people and shuts them down, they set up shop at a different location.

Sadly, many elderly people do not want a son, daughter or bank trust officer stepping in to control their finances, yet their failing vision, limited financial resources and the assurance that they have WON the lottery make them easy prey for these promoters.

- Linda G. Montgomery,

San Francisco

Dear Linda: Thank you for the input. Read on for another point of view:

Dear Abby: I have been enjoying your column since it began. Usually I agree with you, but regarding the daughter who said her mother was "hooked" on sweepstakes, I think you should have done some investigating before answering.

A legitimate sweepstakes never asks for money. I know this for a fact because after I retired, I tried "sweeping" as a hobby. Every entry blank I saw in a store or newspaper, I sent in. All together, I won 27 prizes in three years. The largest was $1,000; other monetary prizes were $600, two for $200, five for $25, and one for $10.

I also won a Singer sewing machine, two pressure cookers and a large world atlas. The rest were small items such as egg timers, electric hair curlers, etc.

Once in a while, I received a request for money. After talking to the postal inspector, I was instructed to tape the original envelope shut and write "Forward to Postal Inspector" on the envelope, then drop it in the mailbox.

I have received letters from postal inspectors thanking me for helping them stop some of these fraudulent practices.

- Audrey Jones, Tucson

Dear Audrey: Thanks for pointing out that not all contests are scams. However, those that require the contestant to send money usually are.

Worth Sharing: The late Norman Cousins wisely said: "People who develop the habit of thinking of themselves as world citizens are fulfilling the first requirement of sanity in our time. . . . More and more, the choice for the world's people is between becoming world warriors or world citizens."

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