Offering False Prizes

Many American consumers get sweepstakes promotions via phone, over the internet, or in the mail each and every day. Legitimate sweepstakes are used as advertising and marketing techniques that give the participating consumer the chance to win a prize or money with no need to purchase anything or pay a fee to enter. However, if you have to pay in order to play or receive your winnings, then the chances are that the sweepstakes or promotion is nothing but a scam.

You should not have to pay in order to enter a legitimate sweepstakes. This also includes paying shipping and handling fees, taxes, or buying another product in order to receive your “prize.” Those types of sweepstakes that notify you via a postcard that you have won a free prize are run by con artists and scammers whose only purpose and desire is to rip you off. The “free prize” you’ve earned could wind up costing you hundreds of dollars.

Any legitimate sweepstakes will never charge you to win. If you get a promotion that is congratulating you on winning a prize, but it requires a shipping and handling fee, it is not a sweepstakes and could be a fraud instead. You should never be required to pay any type of fee to receive a prize in a sweepstakes.

Now, let’s look at some questions you can ask to help you evaluate and determine the legitimacy of a sweepstakes or other promotions:

  • Are both the rules and entry instructions for the promotion easy to find and understand? If you can’t understand what you have to do to be eligible, you should think twice before you respond.
  • Does the advertising copy say that no purchase is necessary in order to win? You have to remember that you are never required to pay in order to play in a legitimate sweepstakes or other contest.
  • Are the prizes worth winning? Be sure that the prizes you are trying to win are things you actually want and worth the effort it takes to win? Do you really want to win the prizes? Is there a cash option available?
  • Does the prize company ask for your credit card number, bank account information or social security number? No legitimate prize company will ever ask for this information in order to declare you a winner.

Remember these questions and helpful hints, and the next time you receive something via mail, phone, or internet claiming you have won a prize, you can simply disregard it for what it is—nothing more than a con artist trying to scam you.