Sweepstakes Deceived Raleigh Man, Sen. Edwards Says
Posted March 8, 1999 6:00 a.m. EST
RALEIGH — The offers keep coming in but the damage is already done.
Pam Bagwell is busy sending back all the merchandise her father in-law ordered from sweepstakes companies in the past year, including books and cameras.
Robert Bagwell spent thousands of dollars of his retirement savings -- money he cannot get back.
Sweepstakes companies cashed $15,000 to $20,000 worth of checks, draining Bagwell's IRA account before his daughter-in-law realized what was happening, and before doctors diagnosed Mr. Bagwell with dementia, which causes severe memory loss.
"It makes me really angry that they did this to him," says Pam Bagwell. "It's not about what I have to do for him now, it's about what they were doing to him before."
That's why North Carolina's Senator John Edwards is proposing some powerful legislation against sweepstakes companies.
"What happened to Bobby Bagwell is a tragic case of what's happening to the elderly people across this country, which is that they're being taken advantage of," says Edwards.
After hearing from victims like Bagwell who have been fooled by sweepstakes letters, and testimony from leaders of the companies that send them out, Edwards is out to stop what he calls deception.
"They walk right up to the edge of the line to the existing law, and do everything in their power not to cross over it," he says. "But in the process, they send out mailings that deceive regular people."
"They want a profit, and that's all it's about," said Bagwell.
Edwards is co-sponsor of a bill that would give the government the power to crack down on the language these companies use in their letters.
Part of that bill would propose an 800 number that consumers could call to instantly get their name removed from all sweepstakes mailing lists.