When you receive a notification that you're a potential winner, read the paperwork carefully. There's a good chance that you'll be asked to return a completed affidavit of eligibility, usually shortened to "affidavit," to verify that you're legally eligible to enter -- and win! -- the giveaway. But what's an affidavit? And what do you need to do to return it properly?
What Is an Affidavit?
An affidavit is a legal document that contains a statement, sworn in writing, confirming certain facts are true. Sweepstakes winners usually need to verify information like their names, ages, and social security numbers.
For additional security, some affidavits need to be witnessed by a neutral third party, such as a notary public, who can verify the information. You'll read more about this below.
Why Do Sweepstakes Winners Need Affidavits?
Before awarding prizes to their winners, sweepstakes sponsors need to verify that those winners are eligible to enter. For example, they won't award the prize to you if you're too young to enter, live in a restricted state, or otherwise don't qualify. Checking eligibility diligently ensures that prizes are awarded fairly.
An affidavit verifies that:
- The information you entered on the sweepstakes entry form is true and accurate.
- You complied with the rules when you entered.
- You're eligible to win the prize and aren't associated with the sponsor of the giveaway, the judging agency, or the administrator.
- You agree to any terms and restrictions of claiming the prize.
Additionally, you may be asked to confirm that the sponsors can publish your name for publicity purposes, that you agree to a background check, or other details. These requirements will often be outlined in the sweepstakes rules.
You may be asked for additional information such as your social security number for tax purposes. You'll need to give your social security number to claim any legitimate prize worth more than $600, and many sponsors require them for prizes worth less than $600 as well.
Not agreeing to these terms may be grounds for disqualification. Only after you've completed the verification process are you an official winner. That means that if you don't return your affidavit properly, you won't receive your prize.
Why Do Affidavits Need to Be Notarized?
A notary provides an additional level of security to an affidavit by acting as an impartial third party who is authorized to verify that you really are who you say you are.
A notary cannot provide any legal advice about the document you are signing, but they can check your identification to make sure your name, address, and other information are accurate.
Because they meet with you in person and verify your ID, it's harder for anyone to fraudulently try to claim your prizes.
If you need a notary for your affidavit, here's a list of free and low-cost places to find notaries.
Before You Sign an Affidavit...
When you've just been notified that you're a potential winner and you're flushed with excitement, you might be tempted to sign any legal document put before you.
But before you sign your affidavit, read through it carefully. Be sure that you understand what you're agreeing to, and that you can accept any conditions that the sponsor puts on claiming your prize.
For example, if you really don't want your name and photograph being published online and in the newspapers as the winner, you won't want to sign an affidavit that requires media appearances.
If you don't understand anything you are being asked to agree to, clarify the terms with the sponsor or hire legal counsel to help you determine your rights.
If there are any conditions that you cannot live with, talk to the sponsor; they may have some leeway to change the requirements. Otherwise, you'll need to decide whether to accept the terms or decline the prize. In some cases, declining a prize might be the right decision for you.
If a notary is required, make sure you don't sign the affidavit until the notary can witness it.
Also, be sure to pay attention to when you're supposed to return the documents. If you miss a deadline, you'll probably forfeit the prize. Read this complete guide to the post-win process for more details.