How to Tell the Difference Between a Legitimate Prize and a Scam

Verify that Your Prize Notifications Are Legit to Avoid Sweepstakes Scams

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If you've been notified that you've won a giveaway, you might be tempted to respond right away. Of course, you'll send the sponsor your personal information and anything else they ask for to release your prize, right?. But hang on just a second. Are you sure that notification is legit?

Sweepstakes scammers use sophisticated methods to make their fraudulent prize notifications seem legitimate. So it's important to take the time to verify that you've received a real prize notification before you respond to it.

By following these simple steps to research the prize notifications you receive, you'll verify that you have won a legitimate giveaway and aren't being scammed. This will give you peace of mind while protecting you from monetary loss and identity theft.

Check for the Warning Signs of Sweepstakes Scams

Many scammers use the same common tricks to convince their victims to hand over money or personal information. These include telling them they need to send money for taxes before they can release the prize or putting pressure on their victims to act quickly so they won't have time to realize they are being scammed.

Before you respond to any prize notification, brush up on the warning signs of sweepstakes scams.

This is also a good time to review these common, but unsettling things that aren't signs of sweepstakes scams.

Use a Search Engine to Check Out Your Prize

Scammers have a more difficult time tricking victims now everyone has the power of the internet at our fingertips. By running the sponsor and sweepstakes name through a search engine like Google or PCH Search and Win, you can often discover whether a win notification is fake or legitimate.

When you run the name of the giveaway you supposedly won through a search engine, real sweepstakes will show results like the original entry form, listings in sweepstakes directories, and discussions in contest forums.

If your win notification is a scam, however, your results will be quite different. You might find no results at all, or you might see complaints and warnings from other people who received the scam.

A quick internet search can save you a lot of hassle down the road!

Verify Your Prize Win With the Sponsor

A foolproof way to determine if your prize notification is real is to reach out to the sponsor directly — not using information from the notification, but officially published contact information.

Start by checking to see who sent the notification; it might be the company offering the sweepstakes or it could be a judging agency like Hello World or Don Jagoda Associates.

Then find the sponsor's contact information using a telephone directory, an internet search, or the sponsor's website. Do not use any contact information included in your prize notification, because scammers could have given you a fake number to contact them.

When you contact the company, ask if they can verify your win or put you in contact with the person who signed your win notification.

Note that some customer service divisions might not be aware of current giveaways, so this could take some digging. Also, be aware that PCH has a phone number specifically to check if you're really a winner.

Check Consumer Fraud Reporting's Website maintains useful tools to help you recognize a sweepstakes scam. These include a list of names and aliases commonly used by scam artists, examples of scam emails to compare with your own prize notification, and a list of legitimate lotteries.

Recognizing Common Scams

Because Publishers Clearing House is well-known for big giveaways, they're a frequent target of scams. Swindlers misuse the PCH name to convince you that you've won millions of dollars when you haven't.

To fight scams using their name, Publishers Clearing House follows some very specific guidelines for notifying winners. By familiarizing yourself with how to recognize PCH scams, you can avoid many attempts to cheat you.