, those funny-looking letters and numbers that sweepers often have to type on entry forms, are an attempt to separate legitimate entries from those made by bots and scripts. However, as computers have become more adept at deciphering captchas, they have also become harder and harder to read. Here are some tips to try if you're having trouble entering a captcha properly.
1. If At First You Don't Succeed, Load, Load Again
I usually open a lot of sweepstakes sites at the same time, and work on one after another. That means that some time can elapse between when I open the sweepstakes page and when I fill out the entry form.
But many times, CAPTCHAs expire after a few minutes have passed. So if your CAPTCHA isn't being accepted, the problem might not be with your eyes, it may simply be that the current code is not being displayed. So try reloading the page to get a new code, then enter the sweepstakes right away.
2. Try Turning Off About.com's FrameWhen you visit a sweepstakes page from About.com, you'll see a frame at the top of the page that helps you easily return to About.com when you're done entering. Once in a while, this frame will interfere with a sweepstakes' web page. If you've having trouble entering, click the "Turn Off This Top Frame" link to see if the page works better without it.
3. Lamas, Iguanas, and the Number 1Depending on the font the captcha uses, a lower-case "l" as in "lama" can look exactly the same as an uppercase "I" as in Iguana or the number "1." Confusion between these three characters could cause the captcha to block your entry.
4. O, Those ZerosIt can also be very difficult to tell the difference between an uppercase letter "O" as in "Ocean" and the numeral "0" or zero.
5. Forget 2, 4 the Problem's 6, 8The numbers "6" and "8" are clearly different, right? Well, sure they are, until captchas start putting squiggly lines behind them to confuse automatic image readers. One of those squiggles could easily confuse the two numbers. Depending on placement and font, they can also make a "c" look like an "o," an "o" look like an "a" or cause other confusion.
6. A Case of the Wrong CaseSome captchas don't care if the letters you enter are upper or lowercase, but others are case-sensitive. If the captcha shows both upper and lowercase letters, be sure to enter your characters in upper and lowercase as well. If all of the letters are shown in uppercase, you might be able to ignore the case, but if your entry is rejected try typing all in uppercase.
7. When Case Sensitivity is Too SensitiveOf course, case-sensitive captchas open the door for more confused letters. For example, an uppercase "O" can look a lot like a lowercase "o" when letters are different sizes, and the same with "C" and "c."
8. When the "Eyes" Don't Have ItOne of my major problems with captchas is that they are very difficult or impossible for people with reduced vision. To get around this problem, some sweepstakes offer an audio version of their captchas. If this is an option, you might find it easier to hear the code than to type it.
9. There's No Shame in Admitting DefeatIf you are having a lot of trouble with a captcha, try reloading it to get a different code that might be easier to decipher. You can nearly always do this by reloading the page in your browser, and some entry forms also offer the option to click on the code or press a reload button to get an easier-to-read captcha.