Recognize Sweepstakes Scams that Ask for Too Much Sensitive Information
Is it normal for sweepstakes to ask for your birth date? Your bank account?
Asking for too much sensitive information is one of the signs of a sweepstakes scam. Some unscrupulous people take advantage of their victim's hopes of winning sweepstakes to lure them into providing information that can be used for identity theft. And yet, even legitimate sweepstakes ask for so much personal information that it can be difficult to tell what's reasonable and what's not. Here are some types of information that you might see on sweepstakes entry forms, and whether it is safe to provide this information or not.
Identification and Contact Information
In order to contact winners and uncover duplicate entries, many sweepstakes entry forms ask for contact information like your full name, address, telephone number, and email address. Note that this information is generally a matter of public record in any case. This is totally standard for sweepstakes entry forms, and nothing to worry about. See How to Fill Out Sweepstakes Entry Forms for more details.
Age and Birth Date Information
Most sweepstakes will ask their entrants to fill out their age and/or birth date on their entry forms. There are several reasons for this: first, this information is very helpful to the sponsors for designing future marketing. Secondly, most sweepstakes have age restrictions, so this helps ensure that the entrants are really eligible. And third, there are special laws that govern collecting personal information from minors; the sponsors have to know the age of their entrants to be sure these laws are followed.
Sponsors often use sweepstakes as a method to gather information about their products and services. They might ask about whether you've ever heard of a product, how you go about performing a certain task, or your preferences about topics related to their business. There could be just one or two questions or a whole page of feedback for you to provide. Sometimes these survey questions are optional, at other times they're required. Unless they are unreasonably long and intrusive, they are nothing to worry about.
Sponsors may also ask you for information about which prize to send you if you win. This could include shoe or clothing sizes, color preferences, which activities you like best, and so on. This is standard for legitimate sweepstakes entry forms, and nothing to be concerned about.
Credit Card Information
You never have to pay to enter sweepstakes, so asking for a credit card on an entry form should warn you away from entering. The exception is websites where they attempt to sell you something alongside the sweepstake, such as magazine subscriptions. In these cases, the form may ask for a credit card, but actually entering the number should be optional (and you should only do it if you really want to buy the product. Making a purchase won't influence your chances of winning legitimate sweepstakes). If a credit card number is required to enter, stay away.
Bank Account Information
There is no reason why a legitimate sweepstakes entry form would require that you enter your bank account number. While it's possible that general information, such as where you bank or whether you use online banking, might be part of a survey, you should never provide information that would identify your account information on an entry form.
Driver's License Number
Sometimes sweepstakes, especially car sweepstakes, will require that winners have a driver's license. However, they should never ask for your driver's license number to enter. If they need that information, they will ask for it after they have chosen a winner. Your driver's license number could be used for identity theft or to cash fraudulent checks, and it should not be required on an entry form.
Social Security Number
Sponsors often need your social security number to report winnings to the IRS - however, they will ask for your social only after you have won a prize. There is no legitimate reason to ask for a social security number on a sweepstakes entry form, and you should stay away from any sweepstakes that do. For more information about social security numbers and prizes, see Why Do Sponsors Need my Social Security Number?
Note: Tobacco companies are an exception to this rule. Tobacco companies sometimes request a part of your social security number when creating your membership as additional security that they are not advertising to minors.