When you get notified that you've won a giveaway, you probably want to claim your prize as soon as possible. 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. It's important to take a moment to verify that you've received a real prize notification before you respond.
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.
Most legitimate win notifications have a deadline by which you need to respond. Make sure to take note of the deadline when doing your research, to avoid forfeiting a real prize!
Check for the Warning Signs of Sweepstakes Scams
Many scammers use common tricks to convince their victims to hand over money or personal information. These include asking for "money for taxes" before releasing 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 so you won't mistakenly identify a standard practice as a scam.
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 a scam.
When you run the name of the giveaway 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, the result 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!
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.
Don't trust the contact information listed in the prize notification itself. Some scammers set up phone lines that they'll answer, pretending to be the company sponsoring the giveaway.
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
ConsumerFraudReporting.org 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, and a list of legitimate lotteries.
- List of Prize, Sweepstakes, and Lottery Scams
- Names of Legitimate Lotteries
- Sample Sweepstakes Scam Emails
Compare your win notification with the information here to see if anything matches.
Recognizing PCH 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.