What to Do When CAPTCHAs Don't Work

Strategies to Use When CAPTCHAs Won't Submit

CAPTCHAs, those distorted letters and numbers that sweepers often have to type before they submit an entry form, are an attempt to separate legitimate entries from those made by bots and scripts. However, as computers have become more adept at deciphering captchas, they have also become harder and harder to read. Here are some tips to try if you're having trouble submitting a CAPTCHA.

If At First You Don't Succeed, Load, Load Again

Frustrated college student studying at computer
Frustrated by CAPTCHAs? Here Are Some Strategies to Try. Hero Images / Getty Images

In order to get through my sweepstakes entries faster, I usually open several sweepstakes pages at the same time, then submit one after another. That means that some time can elapse between when I open the sweepstakes page and when I fill out the entry form.

But many times, CAPTCHAs expire after a few minutes have passed. So if your CAPTCHA isn't being accepted, the problem might not be with your eyes, it may simply be that the code has expired. Try reloading the page to get a new code, then enter the sweepstakes right away.

Llamas, Iguanas, and the Number 1

Depending on the font a CAPTCHA uses, a lower-case "l" as in "llama" can look exactly the same as an uppercase "I" as in Iguana or the number "1." Confusion between these three characters could cause the captcha to block your entry.

So if your CAPTCHA contains one of these symbols, try the others to make sure that you're not reading it wrong.

O, Those Zeros

It can be very difficult to tell the difference between an uppercase letter "O" as in "Ocean" and the numeral "0" or zero. If one isn't accepted by your CAPTCHA, try the other.

Forget 2, 4 the Problem's 6, 8

The numbers "6" and "8" are clearly different, right? Well, sure they are... until CAPTCHAs start putting squiggly lines behind them to confuse automatic image readers. One of those squiggles could easily confuse the two numbers.

Depending on placement and font, a "c" can look like an "o," an "o" look like an "a," and other characters can be  hard to read.


A Case of the Wrong Case

Some captchas don't care if the letters you enter are upper or lowercase, but others are case-sensitive. If the captcha shows both upper and lowercase letters, be sure to enter your characters exactly as displayed. If all of the letters are shown in the case, you might be able to type it either way, but if your entry is rejected, try typing it just as it is shown.

When Case Sensitivity is Too Sensitive

Of course, case-sensitive captchas open the door for even more confused letters. For example, an uppercase "O" can look a lot like a lowercase "o" when letters are different sizes, and the same with "C" and "c."

If the characters aren't all the same size, try changing the case of letters that look the same in upper- and lower-case to see if it helps.

When the "Eyes" Don't Have It

One of the drawbacks of captchas is that they are very difficult or impossible for people with vision impairments to use. To get around this problem, some sweepstakes offer an audio version of their captchas. If this is an option, it's often easier to hear the code than to type it.

There's No Shame in Admitting Defeat

If you are having a lot of trouble with a captcha, try reloading it to get a different code that might be easier to decipher. You can nearly always do this by reloading the page in your browser, and some entry forms also offer the option to click on the code or press a reload button to get an easier-to-read captcha.

Don't Get Frustrated!

When you enter sweepstakes, annoying CAPTCHAs are just one of the frustrations you might face. Remember, being a winner is a marathon, not a sprint. Be patient and persistent and the prizes will come!