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[whitespace] Campbell woman wins $3 million from WebMillion.com's jackpot

The catch is her annual payments will total only a little more than $15K

Campbell--Campbell resident Shelley Ruble, 29, just won $3 million. Well, sort of.

The administrative assistant was declared the winner of WebMillion.com's jackpot, but the problem is that the company can't give Ruble all of the money right away.

Instead, she'll receive $15,000 a year for 38 years until she's 69, when the dot-com says it will fork over $2.4 million. Ruble didn't have to pay anything to participate in the sweepstakes, she just had to give some personal data to the website.

"I'm not crazy about it, to be honest, but it's better than nothing," Ruble told the Campbell Reporter. "I kind of have a vague idea of how lotteries work, so I wasn't all that surprised."

Sites like WebMillion.com, an online marketer that boasts being the creator of the first multimillion-dollar Internet lotto, are in abundance, offering web-surfers the chance of their dreams--winning millions of dollars. For Ruble, it almost is a dream, considering the amount of time she'll have to wait to see any serious cash.

Nielsen/NetRatings, a research company based in Milpitas, estimated that tens of millions of people in the United States enter online sweepstakes every month. Some reportedly enter the sweepstakes for hours on end. While entering Internet lotteries seems like a good idea, all too often players do not read the fine print, which dictates how payments are divvied up.

Representatives from the Los Angeles-based WebMillion.com have admitted that a downturn in advertising hasn't been good for business, but they assert that the 40-year payment schedule is nothing new, only that the payments are smaller than they would have been if the economy hadn't taken a turn for the worse. Advertising, however, does not fully cover the cost of the jackpot. WebMillion.com bought insurance that covers the cost of large payouts, such as Ruble's.

The company is a direct marketer and surveys respondents who fill out questionnaires about their buying habits so that WebMillion.com can attract advertisers with the demographic information and sell that information to other companies. Once players have filled out the information, they are allowed to enter the sweepstakes.

Ruble said she first found out two days after her 29th birthday that she'd won through an email that told her she was a winner, but it didn't tell her how much she'd won.

"At first I thought it was just another sales pitch," she said.

The email asked for her home address, and rather than give that information through another email, she decided to call the phone number at the bottom.

She spoke with WebMillion.com representative Christine Nelson, who asked her if she'd visited the site lately. When Ruble said she had not, Nelson told her she might want to take a look.

"It was just stunned disbelief," Ruble said. "I think I said, 'You've got to be kidding.' "

Ruble, who works for a high-tech company in Santa Clara, had a one in 814,216,767 chance in winning the grand prize, but with the number of times she'd entered the drawing, perhaps her odds were better. She spent almost every lunch hour during the week entering online sweepstakes.

So far, she hasn't done anything drastic with her "winnings"--didn't quit her job, buy a car, house and go on a shopping spree. Then again, she can't afford to.

Her plans for the future include taking a vacation, fixing up her car and buying a house, just not all at once.

On the upside, Ruble said no one has hit her up for money, in spite of the fact that her story has been in the news.

"My friends understand I'm not a bank," she joked.

Ruble was WebMillion.com's first grand prize winner, although it has awarded prizes such as Hawaiian vacations, cruises and other smaller cash prizes in the past.

WebMillion.com is a wholly owned subsidiary of L90, a marketing, technology and media company that assists advertisers in reaching consumers white generating marketing revenues for web publishers.
Erin Mayes

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Web extra to the June 14-20, 2001 issue of Metro.

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