Finding out you’ve become a victim of a sweepstakes winner scam can open up a can of worms. Don’t fall victim to these winner scams and learn how to protect yourself.
Before you get started reading, The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website also has valuable information on how to recognize and avoid phishing scams.
Have you ever fallen victim to a scam? It stinks and that’s putting the feeling it gives you politely. Scammers can steal your identity or gain access to your bank accounts with little information. That’s a scary thought.
Unfortunately, scams come in all shapes and sizes. Including sweepstakes winner scams. These scams are a little different than the typical phishing emails you get.
Sweepstakes winner scams trick you into believing you actually won a sweepstake that never existed.
Scammers have become more advanced in their tactics over the years. Using very realistic looking emails and spoof email addresses to gain their unexpecting victim’s trust. Sometimes it can be hard to distinguish a real sweepstakes win and a fake one.
Sweepstakes Winner Scams: 5 Red Flags to Recognize
We want to help you avoid becoming the victim of these invasions of privacy scams. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of five red flags to look for that scream this is a sweepstakes scam. With also a few examples of what any of the sweepstakes winner scams may look like.
1. You Must Send Money Before You Can Receive Your Sweepstakes Win
It’s important to understand that some sweepstakes prize wins will require you pay a fee. But, paying a fee to claim sweepstakes win should only be a fee for port or hotel taxes. This could be a possible scenario with a cruise or vacation win.
For information on any fees associated with a sweepstake, make sure to check out the sweepstakes official rules. All legit sweepstakes and contests have a way for you to view official rules before you submit your entry.
If you get a prize notification that says you must send any amount of money for processing, it’s safe to say you have a sweepstake scam on your hands.
2. The Scammer Doesn’t Send Any Additional Paperwork for You to Complete to Redeem Your Win
While it would be nice for a quick way to redeem huge prizes, there is paperwork required for wins over $600+. You will have to pay taxes for wins anything over that amount and will need to fill out a 1099 form prior to getting your win.
On the other hand, any company can require you to fill out a tax form for wins of any value. While this isn’t common for wins that have values under $100, it does happen.
3. You Can’t Remember Entering the Sweepstakes You Won
We get it. With so many sweepstakes to enter, you may lose track. But, due to the high rate of sweepstakes winner scams out there, it is really recommended you find a way to keep track of your entries.
Let’s say you get an email claiming you won the grand prize in a sweepstake sponsored by a company you’ve never even heard of. Even if the company sounds like a hugely well-known brand, but you can’t remember entering one run by this company, this is a red flag.
To prevent this from happening and you falling victim to any sweepstakes winner scams, find a way to keep track of your sweepstake entries. There are many ways you can do this. Such as using a free program like Google Sheets and creating a spreadsheet.
4. Lotteries or Wins from Foreign Countries are Definitely Sweepstakes Winner Scams
Did you know that in the United States it is illegal for you to enter or win any lotteries in other countries? So, if you get an email saying you won a lottery in another country, this is a sweepstakes winner scams.
5. Prize Notification Email is Riddled with Mistakes and Uncertainty
Since most prize notifications come via email, carefully inspecting any sweepstakes win email you get is a must. Because let me tell you, scammers are getting super clever when it comes to creating phishing emails.
There are some scam emails that look legit and noticing any “red flags” may be super difficult to know that it’s fake. Below are a few for sure red flag that you’re dealing with one of many sweepstakes winner scams.
Sweepstakes Winner Scams: Red Flag Visual Clues for Fake Sweepstakes Win Email
- The email is filled with typos and grammar errors.
Anyone can make a mistake and send an email with a letter out of place or a grammar error or two. But, if you get an email that is completely all over the place with many typos, it’s safe to say you’re dealing with a sweepstakes winner scam.
Companies who send prize notifications are going to double-check their emails before they send them with multiple errors.
- You aren’t addressed by your name in the email.
If a prize notification email begins with “Dear Sir or Madam” and not your actual name, you may be dealing with a prize scam. Almost always, in order to enter sweepstakes, it’s required to put your name before you’re able to enter.
We promise, if you won a big prize, they are going to address you by your name. They’re going to know who you are.
- Email address is from a free email service.
Small businesses that run sweepstakes may only be working with a free email address from Google and Yahoo. Large companies who sponsor large sweepstakes are going to send emails from a company email address.
Warning: Scammers are even learning how to spoof email addresses of major corporations. With some sending them as if they are directly from the actual company. Then there are some instances where they will change one letter or two from the real companies name.
- Unprofessional is written all over the email.
Read over any possible sweepstakes win email you get very carefully. We know what a professional level is and we know when it seems too “relaxed”. While sweepstakes win is exciting, businesses must still remain professional.
Sweepstakes Winner Scams: What to Do if You Get Scammed
If you become a victim of a sweepstake winner scam, there are a few steps you must take. Starting with notifying credit bureaus, getting new identification cards, and notifying your bank.
If you want to learn more about staying safe when entering sweepstakes, read our post on how to identify and report email scams.