By Elysa Chen
THE letter held an enticing proposal - you've got a shot at becoming $200,000 richer.
You're told that you belong to the special one per cent of Singaporeans who have qualified for this draw.
And if you want to win the cash, all you have to do is fill in a form with your particulars, and someone from the "Office of the Prize Award Administrator" will contact you with the good news.
Sounds like a scam?
At least one person thought so.
A teacher, who wanted to be known only as Ms Lina, 30, said she thought the letter was bogus because "it sounded too good to be true".
She said: "Although I've got such letters in e-mails, it's the first time I've received something like that through snail mail."
As it turned out, the lucky draw offer was legitimate - it was sent by Reader's Digest magazine.
The envelope that contained the letter also bore the logo of NTUC LinkPoints.
The Reader's Digest Sweepstakes is a lucky draw that has been held in Asia since 1986. This year, the Super Grand Prize Winner stands to win $200,000.
Ms Lina and her friend had contacted The New Paper as they suspected that those who entered the sweepstakes would be taken for ride.
Mr Ling Wen Long, 34, Ms Lina's friend added: "I was worried because NTUC, which has a strong heartland presence, was involved in this marketing campaign. I didn't want people who are not exposed to such tactics to fall for it and take up a subscription they did not want in the first place."
Judging by blog posts and forums on the Internet, the promotion was also met with scepticism by many others who had received the promotional mailers.
Ms Lina said: "The Reader's Digest Sweepstakes may be legitimate, but there may be loopholes where people have to end up making a purchase."
Reader's Digest spokesman Fiona Hamann said the sweepstakes was organised to thank customers for looking at their offerings via their catalogues or to thank existing customers for their purchase.
Ms Hamann said: "We don't have the benefit of a shop front to showcase our range so we rely on direct mail catalogues for our products. To thank our customers for looking at our catalogue we offer them the chance to enter our sweepstakes.
"You don't need to purchase anything in order to win. Our sweepstakes are free to enter with no obligation to purchase, so you are getting a free ticket if you choose to enter. Customers who make a purchase may also be rewarded with additional entries."
She added that Reader's Digest has also been working with other organisations, such as telcos and airlines, for the sweepstakes.
But Ms Lina was still uneasy.Why did the letter come in an NTUC LinkPoints envelope, and how did Reader's Digest get her mailing address, she wondered.
How did they get address?
The NTUC LinkPoints member said: "I don't know what they are doing with my details, but I won't be surprised if my personal information had been leaked to an external party because it's common for organisations to share information like that these days."
Ms Hamann said: "We work with different partners who think our products would be of interest to their customers and provide a list if names to us... The mailing list is comprised of names who have not opted out of being approached by other companies with offers they might find interesting."
When contacted, an NTUC Link spokesman said that the mailer for the Reader's Digest magazine subscription promotion had been sent out by NTUC Link to LinkPoints Members.
Adding that they take a serious view on safeguarding the privacy of members in the LinkPoints Rewards Programme, he said: "We would like to assure our members that at no time is their personal information released to Reader's Digest for the mailer. We will not sell their personal information to third-party companies."
Members who do not wish to receive promotional offers from the LinkPoints Programme can contact NTUC Link to request to be excluded from the mailing list for future promotions, he said.
Consumers Association of Singapore executive director Seah Seng Choon said they received two complaints regarding lucky draw mailers this year.
Mr Seah said: "So long as companies are transparent and stick to their promise of a lucky draw, we have no objection to the promotion."
He also urged consumers to exercise caution before participating in such promotions.
This article was first published in The New Paper.