Everyone loves the idea of winning mad cash by doing absolutely nothing, but if it’s too good to be true then it is—so don’t fall for those stupid sweepstakes scams.
Watch out for the following:
Don’t believe anything that says you need to send in money before you receive the prize.
The Los Angeles Times‘ David Lazarus reported a story Tuesday about a couple who received a letter from Sentry Armed Dispatch, which asked them to send $20 to Ft. Lauderdale so they could unlock their $898,899 prize.
Of course, the fine print said you had a one in 898,899 chance of winning $898,899, and a one in one chance of winning 89 cents. So essentially Sentry Armed Dispatch wanted the couple to give them 20 bucks so they could get less than a dollar in return.
Any sweepstakes contest that asks you to pay service fees, handling charges, or sweepstakes taxes is bogus.
Be mindful of “skills” contests. Unlike sweepstakes, skills contests try to judge your knowledge, talent or I.Q. with games like solving jigsaw puzzles. Legitimate ones sometimes ask for an entrance fee. The ones run by crooks, however, ask you to pay more and more money as you “beat” each level.
Watch out for free email accounts. If you receive an email from a big company like IBM, but the email account reads Hotmail, then it’s definitely a scam.
If you never entered the contest, then you didn’t win the prize. If you’re uncertain, check your records and verify the phone number on the “winner’s” notification. Sometimes con artists also try to make as if you’ve won the lottery. But, of course, it’s impossible to win the lottery without first buying a ticket.
Be wary if you receive a fat check right away. Legitimate sweepstakes require an affidavit for any amount over $600 before releasing the prize money, according to About.com. So be careful. It’s illegal to cash a fraudulent check, and it can result in fines and a hold on your bank account. It also means that real sweepstakes never ask for your bank account information, as they don’t do direct deposit.