Sweepstakes Scams

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Sweepstakes are popular contests that offer you a chance to win a prize — and offer merchants potential customers such as yourself.

But it is against the law for merchants to offer you a better chance of winning if you buy their products. It also is unlawful for merchants to suggest that buying their products might increase your chances of winning.

Get the Facts

Before filling out a sweepstakes entry form, look for a sweepstakes facts box such as the one below. Some sweepstakes companies include a facts box, which will tell you how to enter without placing any order and what your odds are of winning.

Sweepstakes Facts

Prize Giveaway Number Ending Date Estimated Odds of Winning
$10 million 830 1-31-13* 1 in 100,000,000
$1 million 825 1-31-13 1 in 60,000,000
*Winner may be determined earlier. See official rules for details.
You have not yet won. All entries have the same chance of winning. The winner has not been identified. We don’t know who the winner is. If you enter our sweepstakes, your entry will have the same chance to win as every other entry. Enter as often as you like. You don’t have to wait for us to mail you an entry form. You may submit additional entries simply by writing us at [specify address.] Each time you write to us you will be entered once in each ongoing sweepstakes. Each entry request must be mailed separately.
Buying won’t help you win. Your chances of winning without a purchase are the same as the chances of someone who buys something. It would not be lawful to give any advantage to buyers in a sweepstakes. Enter for free. You don’t have to buy anything to enter. Just mail the entry form included in this mailing or follow the instructions in the official rules.

Read the Fine Print and Beware

Before entering a new sweepstakes, read the rules. There may be information you need to know.

  • Some merchants use sweepstakes promotions to get “leads” for future sales contacts. By entering, you could be agreeing to receive a telemarketing call or some other sales contact.  (This could give a seller the right to call you even if you are on Missouri’s No-Call List.)
  • Make sure you are eligible. Some merchants advertise sweepstakes to everyone, but may require entrants to have a minimum income level or be employed. Some also require entrants to attend a sales meeting to claim a prize. If you don’t meet the eligibility requirements, you might not qualify for the prize.
  • Look for hidden fees on prizes. Some travel prizes require processing fees or deposits, and many savings coupons require purchases to redeem the full value of the coupons.
  • Don’t pay for a phone call to enter. If you are asked to call a telephone number to enter a sweepstakes, make sure it is toll-free.

Report Fraud, Decrease Sweepstakes Offers

  • Report fraud
    Report any suspicious sweepstakes and other offers to the Attorney General’s Office. E-mail or call the Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-392-8222.
  • Stop sweepstakes mail
    Federal law requires companies to stop mailing sweepstakes offers if you make a request. Write the companies and request that they remove your name and address from their mailing lists. Remember to include your name and address as they appear on mail sent by those companies.
  • Remove name from more mailing lists
    Write to Mail Preference Service and ask that all members of the Direct Marketing Association remove your name and address from DMA members’ mailing lists:
    DMA Mail Preference Service
    PO Box 643
    Carmel, NY 10512