How to Tell if You Won or Are Being Scammed

Questions you should ask before responding to a win notice.

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How to Investigate Your Wins:

Sweepstakes scammers are getting more and more sophisticated about disguising their fraudulent win notifications as legitimate wins. Oftentimes, however, scam artists use the same phony sweepstakes or sponsor names in thousands of letters and emails. By researching the names found in your win notifications, you have a good chance of separating the scams from the real thing.

Ask Yourself: Are There Warning Signs of Sweepstakes Scams?

Many sweepstakes scammers use methods to trick victims into parting with their money that are never used in legitimate win notifications. Every time you receive a win, go over the Top Signs that Your Win is Really a Scam to ensure that you are not being defrauded.

Use a Search Engine to Check Out the Sponsor & Sweepstakes Names

By running the sponsor and sweepstakes name through a search engine, you can often discover whether a win notification is fake or legitimate. Real sweepstakes will show results including the original entry form, listings in sweepstakes directories, and discussions in contest forums. If your win notification is a scam, however, your results will be quite different. You might find no results at all, or you might see complaints and warnings from other people who received the scam.

Contact the Sweepstakes' Sponsor Directly

To verify if you're really a winner, try to contact the sweepstakes sponsor directly.

To do this, check the win notification for the company who is contacting you. It might be the company offering the sweepstakes or a judging agency like ePrize or Don Jagoda Associates.

Then look for contact information on the company through a telephone directory or online. Do not use the contact information included in your winning notification, because if it's a scam, that information is not reliable.

When you contact the company, ask if they can verify your win or put you in contact with the person listed on your win notice.

    Check Consumer Fraud Reporting's Website maintains useful tools to help you recognize a sweepstakes scam. Among these are a list of names and aliases commonly used by scam artists, examples of scam emails to compare with your own prize notification, and a list of legitimate lotteries.


    Recognizing PCH Scams:

    A lot of swindlers misuse the PCH name to try to convince you that you've won millions of dollars when you haven't. To fight scams using their name, Publishers Clearing House follows some very specific guidelines for notifying winners. By familiarizing yourself with those guidelines, you can recognize and avoid PCH scams.