Adios! I've won 3 lotteries overseas!

Shhh. I'm off to collect my three -- three! -- foreign lottery jackpots

February 27, 2007|By DAN THANH DANG

Dear readers, this will be my last column. I have enjoyed my time with you, but I must go. Yes, I've had buckets of fun as we've swapped stories about soul-sucking encounters with customer service reps. We've gleefully high-fived each other by telephone and in cyberspace for our small consumer victories. We've even given thanks together for all the businesses that helped us right so many wrongs.

I'll always cherish those moments. But now a new life beckons, thanks to a wonderfully surprising windfall that has fallen into my lap. Woo Hoo! I! Am! So! Excited!

What, you ask, is going on? Well, I'm not really supposed to share yet since I've been told to pinky-finger swear by all that is good and golden to keep this strictly hush-hush. But seeing as how we're practically friends, I can tell you it has to do with a small fortune, a tasteful villa, a sun-drenched beach and a steady supply of cocktails.

Yes, I am retiring to a life of leisure at the ripe old age of 35. And to think that I'd figured my puny savings would force me to keep working forever and a day!

What's the secret, you ask? Well, I hesitate to say. Ms. Vera Kalihoff and Mr. Walter Jones expressly said in their e-mail that I should keep things confidential and "adhere to this instructions strictly to avoid loss" of my cash prize.

But since I can barely contain myself, I'll share this with just you (promise not to tell, OK?):

I've won a jackpot in three, yes, three different countries!

The East-West Australia Lottery held on Feb. 1 picked out my e-mail address and corresponding ticket No. 38090325436 out of hundreds of thousands of ballots and I won a whopping 1 million euros. A week later, I discovered the Spanish Loteria - otherwise known as El Gordo - picked out my e-mail and my lucky numbers 9-43-97 (I didn't even know I had lucky numbers!) for the grand prize of 1.5 million euros.

Then last week, the staatsloterij said I won another 1 million euros.

It's a miracle - especially since I've never played the lottery in my life, not in Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Australia or Spain. Shoot, I've never even been to Australia or Spain. So much for that whole "You've got to play to win" malarkey.

At first, that pesky little thought made me pause for a second and think that maaaaybe someone was trying to dupe me. But then I remembered I have an aunt and cousins who live Down Under. I've barely seen them in decades, so the fact that they were kind enough to enter me into a lottery really touches my heart. By golly, I'll have to send them a thank you note.

I couldn't for the life of me figure out how I managed to win Spain's lottery, but then I suddenly remembered that my neighbor went to Spain not too long ago. She must have bought me a ticket. I knew shoveling her sidewalk last winter would eventually pay off.

And I haven't a clue where the staatsloterij is based, but no matter. They say luck happens in threes, right?

Before you start raining on my parade, I already know that the Federal Trade Commission says playing a foreign lottery violates federal law, but since I didn't actually enter those lotteries myself, does that still count? I'm sure when I contact Mr. Jones and Jim Benson of Laagste Bank in the Netherlands (that's who Ms. Kalihoff said I should call) to collect my winnings, they'll kindly explain all the rules to me.

I also know that the FTC warns us about international lotteries (See? I'm no dummy. I do my homework.) because consumers lose $120 million a year to such scams, but I am sure those chumps didn't do their research and they weren't dealing with such fine, upstanding people as Mr. Jones, Ms. Kalihoff and Mr. Benson.

Oops. I hope they forgive me for doubting their integrity and for over-sharing.

The thing is, all they want me to do right now is call in with my name, contact numbers, address, winning numbers and the amount I've won.

It's not as if they're asking for anything outrageous like my bank account, credit card or Social Security numbers. They didn't ask me to wire or mail them money first before I can collect my prize. They haven't even mentioned paying hundreds or even thousands of my own money for taxes before I get my money. Hoo boy, because that might set off some alarm bells.

All they want me to do so far is keep this a secret, which doesn't sound shady at all. I am sure they're only doing that to protect me. After all, once you become a millionaire - and according to the currency converter, I've lucked into about US $4.6 million - everyone wants a piece of you, right?

I'm looking forward to sharing my good fortune with my family and friends. What's money without someone to share it with, right? But to make sure I don't squander all the loot, I made sure to consult with my good friend and colleague, financial dynamo Eileen Ambrose, who said I should invest any large sum of money wisely.

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