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how can i avoid sweepstakes scams?

Asked by an anonymous Tumblr user.

A recent research poll showed that more than half of all American adults entered sweepstakes within the past year - most of which were legitimate and law-abiding. However, con artists try to capitalize on the popularity of these offers by disguising their illegal schemes.

The Federal Trade Commission receives thousands of complaints each year from consumers about gifts, sweepstakes, and prize promotions. You can protect yourself by recognizing the differences between legitimate sweepstakes and fraudulent ones:

  • Prizes in legitimate contests are awarded solely by chance. Contestants don’t have to pay a fee or buy something to enter or increase their odds of winning.
  • In fraudulent schemes, “winners” almost always have to pay to enter a contest or collect their “prize,” if they get a prize at all. Requiring a fee to enter is illegal.

Fraudulent sweepstakes promotions often show up through telemarketer calls, e-mails, or in the mail. You can reduce your chance of receiving these notifications by registering for the National Do Not Call Registry and by having your name removed from direct mail and e-mail marketing lists.

Learn your rights under the law when it comes to sweepstakes and find more ways to protect yourself.