What to Do When CAPTCHAs Won't Work

How to Deal With Invalid CAPTCHA Codes

CAPTCHAs—those distorted letters and numbers that you have to type before you can submit some entry forms—aim to block cheaters from using bots and scripts, which helps legitimate sweepstakes fans.

However, bots become more adept at deciphering CAPTCHAs over time, and programmers respond by making CAPTCHAs harder and harder to read. This can make it difficult, if not impossible, to get your entry form to submit successfully.

Here are some tips to try if you just can't get a CAPTCHA code to work.

If at First You Don't Succeed, Load, Load Again

Frustrated college student studying at computer
Frustrated by CAPTCHAs? Here Are Some Strategies to Try. Hero Images/Getty Images

If you've opened a web page but haven't submitted your entry form right away, that could cause problems with getting the CAPTCHA to work.

One strategy to enter sweepstakes faster is to open several entry forms at the same time, fill them out, and submit them one after another. But when you do this, time passes between when the first page is opened and when you actually fill out the entry form.

Many CAPTCHAs have an anti-hacking feature that causes them to expire after a few minutes. You won't see a warning that the CAPTCHA is invalid.

If your CAPTCHA isn't being accepted, the problem might not be with your reading or your typing, the code may simply have expired. Try reloading the page to get a new code, then fill out and submit the form right away.

Llamas, Iguanas, and the Number 1

Depending on the font a CAPTCHA uses, a lower-case "l" as in "llama" can look exactly the same as an uppercase "I" as in "Iguana" or the number "1." Confusion between these three characters could be the reason why you can't get the CAPTCHA to work properly.

So if your CAPTCHA won't submit, check for these symbols. If it contains one of them, try the other possibilities to make sure that you're not entering the wrong one.

O, Those Zeros

It can be very difficult to tell the difference between an uppercase letter "O" as in "Ocean" and the numeral "0" or zero. This is especially true when the CAPTCHA has distorted the characters.

If you've been trying the letter O or the number zero and the CAPTCHA won't go through, try the other option.

Forget 2, 4 the Problem's 6 and 8

The numbers "6" and "8" are clearly different, right? Well, they are until CAPTCHAs put squiggly lines behind them to confuse automatic image readers. One of those squiggles could easily make it hard to tell the difference between the two numerals.

Squiggles can confuse many other characters as well. Depending on placement and font, a "c" can look like an "o," an "o" look like an "a," and other characters can be hard to distinguish. 

If your CAPTCHA is being rejected, take a close look to make sure that your eyes aren't being thrown off by background graphics.

A Case of the Wrong Case

Some CAPTCHAs don't care if the letters you enter are upper or lowercase, but others are case-sensitive—which means that your shift key might be the reason why your CAPTCHA isn't going through.

If the CAPTCHA shows both upper and lowercase letters, be sure to enter your characters exactly as displayed. If all of the letters have the same case, you might be able to enter it either way, but if your entry is refused, try typing it exactly as it is shown.

When Case Sensitivity Is Too Sensitive

Of course, case-sensitive captchas open the door for even more confusing letters. For example, an uppercase "O" can look a lot like a lowercase "o" when letters are different sizes, and the same with "C" and "c."

If your CAPTCHA is being stubborn, try changing the case of letters that look the same in upper- and lower-case to see if it helps.

When the Eyes Don't Have It

One of the drawbacks of CAPTCHAs is that they are difficult for people with visual impairments to use. To get around this problem, some sweepstakes offer an audio version of their captchas.

If this is an option, try listening to a hard-to-enter code. Look for a small speaker symbol near the CAPTCHA to turn on audio mode. It's often easier to hear the code than to read it.

There's No Shame in Admitting Defeat

If you're still having trouble with a CAPTCHA, you don't have to let it drive you crazy. Instead, try reloading it to get a different code that might be easier to decipher.

You can usually do this by reloading the page in your browser. Some entry forms also offer the option to click on the code or press a reload button to get an easier-to-read captcha.

Don't Get Frustrated!

When you enter sweepstakes, annoying CAPTCHAs are just one of the frustrations you might face. Remember, being a winner is a marathon, not a sprint. Be patient and persistent and the prizes will come!