The Darker Side of Sweepstakes and Giveaways

Learn about online Sweepstakes Fraud

We all love to get something for free and winning free stuff is something we all really appreciate. There are hundreds, possibly thousands of legitimate sweepstakes and giveaways available to enter everyday and that is truly a wonderful thing… American love sweepstakes, “A recent research poll showed that more than half of all American adults entered sweepstakes within the past year.”

However there is a dark side to the ‘Sweepstakes’ world. Unfortunately there are always people who want to take money away from some of the most vulnerable in society. These scammers prey on people who are looking to win stuff and appeal to our desire to win a free car or win cash, it can be very seductive and surprisingly easy to fall into!

Many sweepstakes scams will sounds very tempting, claiming that millions of dollars is set aside for you and all you have to do is send in a small fee (approximately $20 or $30) and you can claim your prize. They send out masses of these emails or letters and make millions of dollars, duping unsuspecting victims into parting with their hard earned cash. If you see these scams or have fallen victim to a sweepstakes scam it is important to report it to the correct people. This is the only way we can stop more people from getting scammed. The letters sent out a purposefully deceiving people to believe they have already won money. However if you read the fine print you can see that you are paying for a list of sweepstakes rather than collecting a prize. The Federal Trade Commission FTC often stops sweepstakes scams. In late 2013 at the request of the FTC the federal court actually managed to stop a massive scam which had taken more than $11 millions from innocent consumers.

Now scammers are even posing as government officials or the FTC! The FTC will never collect money from consumers, EVER. Their purpose is to protect the consumer.

Here are my top tips to stay safe when entering sweepstakes and giveaways and what to do if you come across scams.

Top tips to stay safe and spot the scams

  1. Never pay for a sweepstakes: real legitimate sweepstakes and giveaways do not require you to buy or pay to enter or improve chances of winning. Never fall for “to pay for the taxes” or “shipping and handling” of your prize. If you have to pay it is not a real sweepstakes!
  2. Never wire money to claim a prize. I think I made it clear: Sweepstakes = free
  3. Publisher Clearing House is a legitimate sweepstakes company. However scammers will use the PCH good name and try and take money from you! Fake PCH scammers will pretend you have won lots of money. If you are not sure contact PCH directly and they will soon sort it out. Do not use the contact information provided by the possible scammers! 
  4. Scammers are very sophisticated and can use the internet to make very real looking government style website to try and steal your money. Be very wary and really check things out before getting drawn into the scam.
  5. Real sweepstakes have official rules, entry forms and usually your odds of winning. Reading the official rules is always a good idea.
  6. If you are asked to go to a no strings attached meeting to claim a prize be warned you will probably receive a very high pressure sales pitch to sign up for and buy something.
  7. Under no circumstances give your banking information or credit card information to a sweepstakes cafe/company, if it is a free prize they have no need for this and will probably take your money!
  8. Real sweepstakes and giveaways are a marketing/advertising tool for companies to use and therefore you will often find them promoted with a link to a company. Shady scams will often just talk about what you could win without promoting a products or service. 

How and where to report a sweepstakes scam:

  • Federal Trade Commission FTC: 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357)
  • Your local police, especially if you suspect the crooks are currently scamming in your area specifically
  • For PCH sweepstakes scams contact the PCH Abuse team [email protected]
  • For internet based scams contact The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3)
  • For mail based scams contact The United States Postal Service and fill out a Mail fraud complaint form

Please report all scams, this is the only way we can stop them!

As a top site for online sweepstakes and contests, we feel obligated to provide you with the valuable information regarding the abuse of online sweepstakes and online contests. This should help you in determining whether or not a sweepstakes you find is legitimate and will help you avoid getting involved in possible scams and fraudulent activity. Always review the rules and terms before entering your information and verify that the company is legitimate.   

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