What Does "Potential Winner" Mean? Did I Win Or Not?

How to Go from Being a "Potential" to an "Official" Winner

Winning Man
Having your name drawn is just the first step toward becoming a winner. Image (c) WestinD61 / Getty Images

What Is a Potential Winner?

A potential winner is someone who has been drawn as a sweepstakes winner, but whose win has not yet been verified. Once the legalities have been settled, the potential winner will become an official winner, and the prize will follow shortly.

For example, you might be notified by an email that says something like: "Congratulations! You are a potential winner of a prize in our 'Have It Your Way' Sweepstakes (subject to verification)!"

What's the Deal with Potential Winners, Anyway?

While it's true that everyone who enters sweepstakes is a potential winner, receiving a win notice means that you are closer to winning than the general pool of entrants.

For example, if the notification comes from an instant win sweepstakes, this may mean that you were the first to enter after the pre-chosen winning time. If it was a regular drawing, your name was randomly drawn to win a prize. If it was a contest, the judges chose your entry to be a winner.

You are close to crossing the finish line and getting the prize, but you're not quite there yet.

Becoming a potential winner is the first step in actually receiving your prize. But before the prize can be awarded, the sponsor has to verify your win. Then you can before an official winner, the person who actually receives the prize.

What Do I Need to Do to Become an Official, Instead of Potential, Winner?

To become an official winner, you need to go through the sweepstakes' sponsor's verification process.

That process may include some or all of the following steps:

  • Ensuring that there was no technical problem with the sweepstakes that caused your name to be pulled in error.

Sponsors may follow various other steps to ensure that all of the sweepstakes rules were followed and the correct winner was drawn.

If You Want to Be an Official Winner, You Have to Watch Out for Prize Notices

Being a potential winner doesn't ensure you'll receive a prize, even if you've followed all the rules. Many potential winners fail to become official winners because they make a common sweepstakes mistake: they don't respond to their win notifications.

In many cases, sponsors need additional information, such as your address or social security number, before mailing out a prize. In the case of a telephone notification, sponsors will usually make a specific number of calls to try to reach the potential winner.

If a sponsor isn't able to get in touch with a potential winner, they will disqualify him or her and draw a new potential winner. And you will have missed your chance to receive your prize.

Want to know more about winning sweepstakes? Here are 10 ways to boost your odds of winning prizes. Also, a primer about what to expect after you win, and 10 reasons why you might not be winning as often as you want.