Are Prize Notifications Hidden In Your Email? Here's How to Find Out

How to Tell the Difference Between a Win and Junk Mail

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••• Don't Overlook that Big Prize Notification!. Image (c) Kaan-Tanman / Getty Images

How Can I Tell If I've Really Won by Email?

Many sweepstakes notify winners by email. After all, email is more convenient than a telephone call and costs less than using mail or a delivery service.

The disadvantage is that email win notices are often overlooked. It's easy to discount a legitimate win because it looks like junk, or because you're overwhelmed by the amount of mail you're receiving (in which case, you might want to take some steps to reduce the spam you're getting in your sweepstakes email account).

So how can you find the winning emails among the regular and junk mails?

5 Hot Signs You Have a Real Winning Email:

The first thing that you'll want to do when you're checking to see if you have won is to scan your inbox for hot signs that you might have a win on your hands.

Here are five examples of good signs. Note that none of these are foolproof; you'll still need to do some more investigation to see if you are really a winner, but if you see these in your inbox, you'll want to take a closer look:

  1. "Congratulations" in the Subject Line:

    These are usually the easiest email win notices to recognize. They have a nice, clear subject line that tell you you're a winner immediately. Here is an example of an actual winning email:

    "Congratulations on winning the HARO Twitter Party Giveaway!"

    If you receive an email like that, you definitely want to check it out. But before you get too excited, know that enough companies use "congratulations" when you didn't win to make it one of my biggest sweepstakes pet peeves.

  1. "Sweepstakes Name" in the Subject

    Many winning emails feature the name of the sweepstakes in the subject line. Here is an example of a win notification like this that I've received:

    Dickies 500 Race for the Riches Sweepstakes

    Because this type of win notification doesn't say you're a winner, it's easy to overlook these, or think they're just entry confirmations. So it's a good idea to open every piece of email with a sweepstakes name in the subject line.

  1. "fulfillment@" as the Sender

    Many big sweepstakes companies send their emails from a fulfillment email address. For example, here's one you will definitely want to open:

    "Sender: fulfillment@eprize"

    But again, it's easy for scammers to use email addresses that follow this pattern.

  2. Sender is a Name

    Other companies send win notifications directly from their employees. So an email from a personal name, along with an intriguing-sounding subject line, is worth a good look.

  3. Sender Includes a Company Name that You Recognize

    If you remember entering a sweepstakes and you receive an email from that company, it's worth checking it out. It might be a confirmation or a newsletter, but you don't want to take the risk of overlooking a win.

Looking More Carefully for Sweepstakes Wins:

So now you know how to recognize the most obvious signs of a win notification.

But there are lots of companies that send out win notices using subject lines and senders that you would never expect. Some tips for finding these camouflaged wins include:

  • Use an Email Address Just for Sweepstakes:
    Having a dedicated email address for sweepstakes makes checking through your mails for prize notifications quicker and easier.
  • When in Doubt, Check It Out:
    Especially if you're new to entering sweepstakes, I recommend you open any email that you're not sure isn't a prize notification. I've seen wins mentioned casually at the end of regular-looking newsletters, notifications that sounded like spam, and more. Opening questionable mails takes only a few seconds and could prevent you from overlooking legitimate wins.
  • Don't Forget Your Spam Filter:
    Many filters consider any mail that contains words like "sweepstakes," "win," "congratulations," or "prize" to be spam or a scam, and automatically move those mails to your spam filter (you can read more about how spam filters work from an Email Expert). This means that if you're not careful, you might never get the chance to see those five hot signs I mentioned above.
  • Unsubscribe from Newsletters You Don't Want: 
    The fewer unwanted newsletters you receive in your sweepstakes inbox, the more quickly you'll be able to spot prize wins. Find out how to unsubscribe without jeopardizing prize wins. You might also want to consider subscribing to newsletters you do want to receive with your regular email address, and keeping your sweepstakes address light and lean.

Bad Signs: Scams and Junk Mail

Just as there are some signs that you might be a potential winner, there are also some signs that you have a scam or a junk mail on your hands.

Here are some warning signs to look out for:

  • The email doesn't call you by your name.
  • The sweepstakes' exact name isn't used, or you don't remember entering it and can't find any legitimate-sounding sweepstakes with that name with an internet search.
  • You're being asked for money, or bank account/credit card numbers (read 5 Things That Aren't Signs of Sweepstakes Scams to see what sensitive information is normal to share after you win).
  • You're being told you have won an international lottery, such as the Heineken Lottery.
  • The email is full of typos, misspellings, and/or bad grammar.
  • Read about the Warning Signs of Sweepstakes Scams for more.​