1. Is a Real Company Behind the Sweepstakes?
The first thing I want to know when deciding whether sweepstakes are legitimate is whether there is a trustworthy company behind the giveaway. There are good reasons for companies to run sweepstakes, most of which revolve around generating publicity for the company or their products. If you can't find a company behind the sweepstakes, it's not a good sign.
Sometimes the sweepstakes' sponsor is clear from the website's address. When it's not, the sponsor is often listed in the sweepstakes rules.
For example, Yahoo's Get Carried Away Sweepstakes was hosted on ePrize's website (http://yahoo.promo.eprize.com/getcarriedaway/), but the sweepstakes' rules stated:
2. Sponsor: Yahoo! Inc., 701 1st Ave., Sunnyvale, CA 94089. Administrator: ePrize, LLC, One ePrize Drive, Pleasant Ridge, MI 48069.
2. Does the Sweepstakes' Website Look Professionally Made?
This isn't a total red flag, because some companies with smaller budgets hold perfectly legitimate sweepstakes. But most scammers don't put a lot of money into designing a professional website for their fake sweepstakes. If the site looks poorly-designed and the graphics low-quality, take extra care in investigating the sweepstakes to be sure it's legitimate.
3. Has Anyone Made Complaints Against the Sweepstakes Sponsor?
But what if the sweepstakes' sponsor is a company you've never heard of? In that case, a little bit of research can help you decide whether the sponsor is trustworthy. Do a web search on the company's name to see if there are any negative comments about the sponsor. If there are no results, that's not a good sign, either.
It's also a good idea to search for the company name plus the word scam to see if anyone else has written about problems with the company.
4. Does the Sweepstakes Have a Legitimate Set of Rules?
Legitimate sweepstakes have a set of rules that covers at least the most important aspects of the sweepstakes. Any sweepstakes without rules isn't trustworthy.
Sweepstakes rules can be long or short, but they should include the basics. In the article, Legal Compliance Guide for Online Contests and Sweepstakes, Antone F. Johnson wrote:
Official Rules must cover the following at a minimum: No purchase necessary; start and end dates; eligibility requirements (age, residency, any exclusions); method to enter (including a “no purchase” method); limitations on the number of entries by a single person or household; odds of winning; description and approximate retail value (ARV) of prize; how the winner will be selected and notified; restrictions on receiving the prize; and sponsor’s name and address."
6. Does the Sweepstakes' Sponsor Offer Contact Information?
If you're dealing with sweepstakes sponsored by a smaller company, check the company's website for contact information. Most legitimate companies have an address and a phone number listed on their website to let people get in touch with them. Contact information is a good sign that the company behind the sweepstakes is legitimate.
Some sweepstakes sponsors include contact information, including addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses to use in case of trouble, right in their rules.
7. Ask about the Giveaway in the Sweepstakes Forum
If you're still not sure whether a giveaway is legitimate, visit the Scam Warnings section of the Sweepstakes Forum. There, you can enlist the help of other sweepers to help you decide whether you should trust a sweepstakes with your personal information.