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 received the good news that you've won a giveaway, you might be tempted to respond right away, sending over your personal information and anything else that the sponsor wants to release your prize. But hang on just a second. Are you sure that notification is legit?

Sweepstakes scammers use sophisticated words to make their fraudulent prize notifications seem legitimate. So it's important to take the time to verify that your prize notification is legit before you respond to it. By following these simple steps to research the prize notifications you receive, you can verify that you have won a legitimate giveaway and are not being scammed. This will give you peace of mind as well as protecting you from monetary loss and identity theft.

Check Your Prize Notification for the Warning Signs of Sweepstakes Scams

There are some common tricks that many scammers use to try to fool their victims out of handing over money or personal information, like telling them that they need to send money for taxes before a prize can be released and putting pressure on their victims so that 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 might also be a good time to review these common, but unsettling things that aren't signs of sweepstakes scams.

Use a Search Engine to Check Out the Sponsor and the Sweepstakes

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. Real sweepstakes will show results including 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.

Verify Your Prize Win Directly with the Sweepstakes' Sponsor

Another good way to verify if you are really a winner is to contact the sweepstakes' sponsor directly. Start by checking to see who sent the prize 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 listed on your win notice.

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 their big giveaways, they are a frequent target of scams. Swindlers misuse the PCH name to try 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.