Are Magazine Sweepstakes Just Another Type of Subscription Scam?

Can You Trust Magazine Sweepstakes?

Magazine stand.
Magazine Sweepstakes Aren't Scams, But They Have a Few Downsides. Tom Cockrem / Getty Images

Are Magazine Sweepstakes Just Subscription Scams?

From door-to-door sales crews that exploit under-aged or underprivileged people to sell subscriptions (sometimes against their will) to fake renewal notices sent by scammers, there are a lot of magazine subscription scams out there.

Are sweepstakes advertised in magazines like Woman's Day and Good Housekeeping just another type of subscription scam?

Answer: Magazine sweepstakes are not scams.

 Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day,O Magazine, Redbook, and many other publications sponsor sweepstakes that are trustworthy and fun.

Many of these magazines seek out great prizes that appeal to their target audience, including cash, trips, household items, and more. And those prizes are really awarded to legitimate entrants.

But while Magazine sweepstakes are not scams, there are a few things to keep in mind when entering them:

Lots of People Enter Magazine Sweepstakes:

Some people think magazine sweepstakes are scams because they've entered them, sometimes for years, without winning.

Remember, though that these sweepstakes are advertised not only online but also in the magazines themselves, which means that they reach hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of readers. Woman's Day Magazine alone has a circulation of more than 4 million readers.

Obviously, not all of those readers enter the sweepstakes, but it still gives magazine sweepstakes a large pool of potential entrants, which means that your odds of winning sink.

(To find sweepstakes with better odds, check out my tips on picking the best sweepstakes to enter).

It's certainly not impossible to win from magazines (I've won several myself). But don't be surprised if you don't beat the odds.

Many Magazine Sweepstakes Are Creative Presentations:

Some of the biggest annual giveaways that magazines offer are creative presentations: sweepstakes that pool together entries from multiple sources, making the odds of winning even longer.

When you enter these sweepstakes, your odds of winning can be millions to one. 

There's nothing wrong with entering creative presentations, but if they are the only sweepstakes you're entering, you're setting yourself up for disappointment. It's a good idea to put together a sweepstakes mix that includes life-changing, hard-to-win sweepstakes alongside more obtainable prizes.

Scammers Can Take Advantage of Magazine Sweepstakes:

While magazine sweepstakes themselves are legitimate, scammers can take advantage of trusted names to try to convince you to hand over your hard-earned dollars.

Take, for example, this scam that took advantage of a Quick and Simple Magazine Sweepstakes. Scammers used information from a winners' list posted online to make a very convincing play for their victims' money.

Don't fall for these scams! Make sure you know the warning signs of sweepstakes scams, and check out tips for verifying if a win is legitimate.

Watch Out for Unwanted Subscriptions:

Many magazine sweepstakes  give you the opportunity to subscribe to the publication or to get a free trial when you enter.

The publishers call this a courtesy, to make subscribing easy.

If you're interested in receiving the magazine, by all means take advantage of the offers, but be careful if you don't intend to subscribe. I had a problem with a Good Housekeeping Magazine Sweepstakes that subscribed me, even though I entered through the "click here to enter without subscribing" link.

If you don't want to sign up for a magazine subscription when you enter, make sure to take the following steps:

  1. Choose the Option to Enter Without Subscribing:
    Look for a link or a radio button that says something like, "Enter sweepstakes without subscribing." If you don't see one, read the sweepstakes rules to find the entry method without signing up for the magazine. All sweepstakes have to provide a non-purchase method of entry.
  2. Be Sure You Didn't Make a Mistake:
    Even if you are sure that you entered without subscribing, watch out for a mail or email that says you subscribed to the magazine.
  3. Cancel If You Receive an Unwanted Subscription:
    If you receive one, contact the magazine's customer service department, or return the invoice immediately and write something like 'Did Not Subscribe - Please Cancel' on the invoice.
  4. Don't Ignore Problems:
    It's important that you don't simply ignore a magazine invoice. Even if they do not have a credit card to use to charge you, magazines can cause trouble for people who do not pay their subscription fees, like leaving negative reports on non-payers' credit reports, lowering their credit. So be proactive if you have been signed up for a subscription you don't want.

Don't be afraid to enter magazine sweepstakes - they are both fun and profitable. Just be aware of the drawbacks of this type of giveaway.

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