Prize Notifications: How You Know When You've Won Sweepstakes

Woman Happy to Receive a Prize Notification
••• Image (c) Cultura RF/Seb Oliver/Getty Images

So you've entered a giveaway, and the sponsor has chosen your name as a winner. Great! But what comes next? How will the sweepstakes' sponsor let you know that you've won? Here are the most common ways that companies use to send their prize notifications:

Prize Notifications Can Come by Email

Many sweepstakes will send a winning notice to the email address that the potential winner used on their entry form. To be sure you don't overlook an email notification; it's a good idea to set up a dedicated email address for sweepstakes and to check it frequently.

Even with a dedicated email, it's easy to overlook a prize notification among all of the other emails you'll receive. It's a good idea to have an idea what winning emails look like so that you don't skip a prize notification by accident.

Some prize notifications may look a little untrustworthy. While it's a good idea to be wary of any email with an attachment, prize notifications will sometimes include an attachment with valuable information like the sweepstakes rules or an affidavit to print out and return to them. Other times, the notification will include a link to a website where you can find more information about how to claim your prize, or you'll have to reply to verify your win. And sometimes, your notification will be purely informational, and you won't have to do anything at all.

Prize Notifications May Come by Mail

Many companies send winning notifications by mail. These prize notifications may come through the regular postal service or via a delivery service such as FedEx or UPS. Along with the information that you've won, you may also receive an affidavit or other forms that you'll need to fill out and return to claim the prize.

Beware of any prize notifications that arrive by bulk mail. Legitimate companies won't notify winners in bulk, whereas many scammers send mass mailings to try to trick as many people as possible. Look out for precanceled stamps, metered postage, or permit imprints to identify bulk mailings.

Telephone Calls to Let You Know You've Won

Some prize notifications come via telephone calls. Often, the sponsor will try to reach the winner a certain number of times and then disqualify them and draw another winner. To avoid losing a prize, it's a good idea to use a number where you can be easily reached when you enter.  A mobile phone number might be a good choice, or you can use call forwarding to make sure that you can be contacted on the go.

Of course, some scammers will also call to try to trick you. Make sure that you know the signs of telephone scams, so you don't fall for one of these cons.

Some Prize Notifications Arrive Immediately

When you win instant sweepstakes, you will find out right away if you've won a prize. Either a message will pop up on your screen letting you know you're a winner, or you'll receive an email or text message within a few minutes of entering.

Don't get so excited by your win that you overlook important information. You may need to take additional steps to claim your prize, such as a supplying a shipping address. Closing your winning screen too quickly could cost you the prize.

A Prize Notification Can Be Announced on a Website or Newsletter

Some sweepstakes only announce winners on their website or through their email newsletters. If you don't respond within a certain amount of time, the company will disqualify you and draw another winner.

When you're entering a lot of giveaways, it's easy to forget to check a winner's list posted on a website. To avoid missing out on a prize with this notification method, leave yourself a reminder to check back to see if you are the winner. A program like Google Calendar helps you avoid forgetting by sending you a reminder email when it's time to check back. Be careful about unsubscribing from sweepstakes emails if the winners will be notified in a newsletter.

Having a Google Alert on your name can act as a fail-safe to keep you from overlooking these kinds of wins. While it's not perfect, it may catch prize notifications that you missed.

Prize Notifications Announced Through Social Media

Companies that run Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook sweepstakes will often send prize notifications via social media. Make sure to check your direct messages to find out if you've won a prize. On Facebook, be sure to check the "other messages" which come from people who are not your friends. Facebook doesn't display these messages prominently, and it's easy to overlook a prize notification in your messages.

Surprize! You've Won With No Notification at All

Once in a while, a prize will just appear on your doorstep with no prior warning whatsoever. This is what sweepers call a "surprize." Many sweepers feel their hearts jump every time they see a delivery truck, hoping that it's holding a surprise for them. These prizes are the hardest to miss out on, as long as you don't have a problem receiving packages by postal service or delivery service.

How to Find Out Which Prize Notification Method a Giveaway Uses

So how will you know which method to look out for? Most sweepstakes will say which prize notification method they will use in their rules.

However, when you enter a lot of giveaways, you should be on the lookout for any of these notification methods. It's a good idea to spend a few minutes a day going through your sweepstakes emails, opening even postal mail that comes from unfamiliar addresses, and making sure that you're reachable by telephone to make sure that you don't pass up a valuable prize.