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Here are some important things to know when/if you've won a prize! In this article, I will be letting you know first things you should look for, and then things you should watch out for. It will help you, and help keep sweepstaking fun for you!

When you win a prize and are informed of winning by phone:

I am fortunate that I have won a few things. Generally speaking, if you are informed of a winning by phone, the conversation will be something like this:

"Hi, may I speak to __________?". "Yes, this is him (or her)". "Hi ______, this is ______ from company _______. Do you remember entering _________ on such a date?" "Yes, why?" "Well, congratulations! You've won _______! Here are the details..." And the phone call usually lasts 2-3 minutes, with the sponsor telling you the prize details, and/or shipping details, and or special dates (i.e., if it is something like a golf tournament, etc).

So, basically if you win a sweepstakes by phone, the sponsor will almost immediately let you know who they are, and what you've won. And usually the phone call will be very short & sweet. You may be asked to provide an affidavit as well.

When you win a prize by e-mail and are  informed of winning by e-mail:

Winning by e-mail isn't always "as" noticeable, so you have to watch for certain headlines (and usually check your e-mail on a regular basis!) Some sponsors make it very obvious, such as e-mail headings such as "Congratulations! You've won ____!". Whereas other e-mails will be very plain jane, kind of like "Notice from Company XYZ" (which looks more like a bill! :P)

One very 'easy' way to go through a lot of sweepstakes, especially if you enter a lot, is to organize them by 'subject' or 'sponsor'. (Most e-mail programs let you click on the 'heading', then will automatically sort by that field). A lot of messages will be 'filler' (i.e., "Thanks for subscribing to our newsletter!") which you don't really need. (It is good to read a sponsors newsletter, but you don't really need to read 20 sponsors 'thanking' you for signing 'up' to their newsletter, if the messages are all exactly the same). But the other ones, you should check out...

Winning e-mails usually have the following in common:

a) They may ask to to send an 'affidavit' confirming your prize winning.
b) They may say 'Congratulations! You won...' in the body of the e-mail.
c) They will usually identify who they are (usually a 'real' person, as opposed to an automated message), and list the prize you've won.
d) And, obviously, you will usually recognize the sponsor name/company address/etc as one that you've entered.

If you see any of these four items in the body of your e-mail, read it carefully to see if you've won something.

Things to watch out for:

'Real' Sweepstakes don't ask for 'deposits' or 'payments' for your prize.

Sweepstakes are fun. Sweepstakes are many times referred to as sweepstakes 'giveaways'. They are not called "sweepstakes give us money ways". A company should not be asking you money in form of a deposit, or 'partial payment' on the prize, etc, etc. 

While some companies that are 'legitimate' may contact you with a sales pitch for a product or service (because you gave them permission to contact you), they will almost *always* let you know up front that they are calling you. And they will let you know that it is  because you entered a specific sweepstakes and gave them permission to contact you. They will not try to hide that fact. Fake companies will not normally do that, and will also usually try to sell you something 'disguised' as a prize.

A few examples.

(a) "Automated" computer phone calls. If you get any kind of automated phone call that asks you to 'press one' or 'stay on the line', it is most likely fake. I've gotten some fake 'cruise' ship phone calls where they have a foghorn sound in the background, the guy tries to sound really excited, and then if you 'stay on the line', go right into a sales pitch. They've gotten pretty good, in that if you ask *any* questions (i.e., "Is this legit?" to the operator), they will automatically hang up on you. But they are 'automating' the phone calls because they are mass'-calling so many people, hoping to 'catch' a few.

(b) If the call sounds 'scripted', and the person doesn't want to 'deviate' from the script, then it is most likely fake. While most sweepstakes organizers are obviously excited (i.e., they will say something like "Hey! Congratulations! You won ___".), "scripted" calls (aka 'fake' companies) many times will spend 15-20 minutes trying to get you excited & hyped up, and then ask for your number. (Another 'dead giveaway' is if they ask you up front if you are a 'Visa or Mastercard holder in good standing'. Who cares? Real sponsors don't need to know this. Essentially the 'fake' companies are saying 'we don't want to waste our time unless we can get you to pay for something later).

I've actually received a couple calls like that. I thought I had won something, but then the person on the other end tried to get me all 'hyped up'. They asked a lot of leading questions, like "So are you excited about ...?" Then I'd say yes. Then they'd say "Wouldn't you be excited if you won TWO items like this?" Then I'd say yes... Then they'd say "Wouldn't your FRIENDS be excited if...", etc, etc... trying to elicit as many 'yes's' as possible, then 15 minutes into the conversation, 'bam!', try to get you to give them your credit card number. And in fact that's what was said -- i.e., "So you are excited! Great! To claim your prize we just need your visa card". WHAT? No you don't. 

What was funny is I then 'talked' with the woman for 15 minutes afterwards. I told her I wanted to verify the legitimacy of the 'contest/sweepstakes' she was offering, and she tried to put me on the defensive. I actually wanted to phone another person to confirm that it was a 'legit' prize -- but the woman would not let me off the phone. She told me if I hung up then you would 'lose your place' in line to claim the prize. I told her I'd call right back, but she said her boss wouldn't let her to that. etc, etc. Obviously by then, a long time before, I already knew it was fake, but I wanted to see how long she would try to keep selling me this. She tried for about 15 minutes.

So bottomline, legit sweepstakes generally don't try to 'trick' you into giving them your credit card number.

(c) If the person on the other line can hardly speak English, and they speak with a thick/broken accent, it 'may' be a fake sweepstakes. It is really funny -- but for some weird reason, a lot of 'fake' companies are really, really "cheap" when it comes to getting 'hired' help to do 'shady' things, so they will 'outsource' their sales calls to other countries where the wages are $2/hour instead of $10+/hour.

Since sweepstakes are usually US based, usually they have a fluent English speaker when they contact you to let you know about a prize winning. Even though a lot of people work for companies whose first language is not English, and of course are very intelligent, they generally work in areas, aside from 'communications', in which their strengths shine through. Someone who can't communicate effectively isn't going to be talking to you on the phone. It might happen on a blue moon, but usually reputable companies choose people who can communicate clearly and effectively, to be people  that communicate with the 'public'. And usually this means someone who is fluent in English.

So, if you get someone calling you with a thick accent speaking in broken English, while it may not be a fake sweepstakes, keep your guard up and listen to the rest of the conversation.


Anyways, these tips should help you to recognize when you do win, and help to you know when they are legitimate wins! Happy Sweepstaking!