The Sweepstakes Scam

In this scam, a consumer receives an announcement telling them that they have won a sweepstakes and that their winnings will be delivered to them once they pay the taxes and/or other fees that are due. The scammer may even send the “prize winner” a legitimate looking check to help pay the alleged taxes, hoping that the recipient will deposit the fake check and then send the scammer a good check for the “taxes.”

My husband and I have both received these crazy offers in the mail, but I have never received one through email. As I researched this topic further, I learned that some red flags arecommon sense, but others take more investigative skills to recognize. The most dangerous part of these scams is that they convince you to give your money away. Here are a few clues that a sweepstakes is a scam that I got from and the Federal Trade Commission.

  • In order to claim your prize, you have to pay a fee first. 

Legitimate sweepstakes will never ask you to pay fees to participate or to receive a prize.

  • The sweepstakes scammers use free email accounts. 

If they claim to be from Publishers Clearing house but they sent you an email from a Gmail, Yahoo or Hotmail account, DON’T trust them.

  • They pressure you to act in a hurry.

If you feel like you are being pressured to make a decision, that’s a warning sign and you should be very suspicious.

  • They ask for your bank account information.

Real sweepstakes will not send winnings by direct deposit. They don’t need any credit card information or access to your accounts. The only sensitive information that a legitimate sweepstakes needs to process a win is a social security number – and even then, be careful! Fully investigate the company before you hand over personal information. 

  • They don’t actually say your name. 

This one is my favorite. You get a letter that says, dear resident, you won $15,000. Yeah, red flag! If they aren’t addressing you by your real, full name that is a HUGE warning sign! 

Of course, those aren't all of the hints that a sweepstakes could be a scam. You can find more clues here.

I hope these tips help you avoid the attacks of sly scammers who mail you checks and empty promises. Don’t give your money away without knowing the entirety of what you are getting into. Remember you are a manager of your money; treat it like it’s a successful business and it will be a success. 

Keeping it Fresh, Young & Free,