Monday, September 22, 2014

How to Avoid Sweepstakes Scams

This is an updated version of a previous post, published seven years ago. I thought it was worth updating and re-posting, as the information is important to know.

The Federal Trade Commission (chief consumer protection agency of the U.S. government) has had a "Scam Alert" on file for some time now, warning consumers of sweepstakes scammers posing as government officials who would claim that their prey had won a prize, then ask for money in order to send it. The scammers would end up being the only ones to receive any money, and the would-be prize winner would be holding the bill. The alert goes on further to state several timeless ways that these scams can be avoided.

#1 Don't pay to collect sweepstakes winnings

If you are required to pay anything, then pass it by. Legitimate sweepstakes won't ask you to pay anything in order to receive your prize. Some promotional contests do ask for a shipping and handling fee... however, in the end, it is more often than not, a lot of red tape and extra fees which could end you up with nothing.

#2 Hold on to your money

Scammers will sometimes ask you to wire them money, or to overnight them a check or money order for quick delivery of your prize. No, no, no. These are not legitimate tactics. True sweepstakes sponsors want you to have a wonderful experience with their company and product, which does not include asking you to pay for their promotion in any way.

#3 Phone numbers can deceive

Don't rely on your caller id to be a totally reliable source of information. Internet technology can allow scam artists to "disguise" their phone number so you won't know where they are calling from. Someone could have a number from Washington, D.C. show up on your telephone when they are really calling you from Siberia.

#4 Take control of the calls you receive

Place your telephone number on the do not call registry at or by calling 1-888-382-1222 to help reduce the amount of unwanted phone calls.

#5 File a complaint with the FTC

If you receive a suspicious winning phone call, file a complaint with the FTC at, or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP. If possible, include the date and time of the call along with the name and/or telephone number of the organization that called you. Even if it is a phony number, enforcement officials may still be able to track it.

Also see:
Prize Scams

For those who enter regularly online, I would also add to be aware of the signs of a legitimate Website, and of "phishing scams." Though phishing sites will pose as a regular Website, there are generally signs that will tell you it is a fake.

Often, you will receive an email regarding something you wouldn't remember happening (because it never did), or asking you to change your password at a particular site. It will look like an "official" email, overall, and will likely have real-looking logos from some prominent company (such as Paypal or Google, for example). In most cases, the email will contain a link for you to click through to "resolve" the issue.

Never, ever click the link without being certain the email is legitimate. If you do, whatever information you are entering is going straight to the scammer, giving them access to your accounts and other information.

There are a few ways you can check for an email's legitimacy. You can hover over the sender's email address, to check if it is the official address of the real company. Often, phishing sites will have a completely different one from the real one, though at times it may seem similar. Also, check for spelling errors, as phishers often have these. In general, anything that seems suspicious in the email, probably is.

If you are still unsure, type the URL of the legitimate site into your address bar, without clicking the link in the email. Then you can check the details with the site directly, and report the email as phishing, if necessary.

Overall, sweepstakes in general offer a wonderful experience, and scams are not as commonly successful as one would think. The large majority of sweepstakers will likely never have the misfortune of being taken by a sweepstakes scam. However, scammers do prey on the unsuspecting, so it is good to be aware that these things do exist, and to exercise caution when something seems suspicious.

Today's Bonus

McDonald's is having a "Pre-promotion Sweepstakes," leading up to the start of their regular "Monopoly" game. You can register for this once, and they give you the free code "McDMONOPOLY" to use for your entry. Prizes for this sweeps are $10,000 and $50,000. It starts on 9/23, and ends on 9/29. After this date, you can use this site to enter codes from the Monopoly game.

This sweeps has a complex set of rules. As always, your entry is your own, so you may wish to read through the rules, as well. There, you will also find instructions to request game pieces for the Monopoly game by postal mail.

2014 MONOPOLY Game at McDonald’s

Save 25¢ when you buy any ONE (1) bottle of Frank's® RedHot®.

Good Luck!

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