While it's very important to be aware of the warning signs of a sweepstakes scam
, I've also seen people who are afraid to respond to real win notices because of perfectly normal sweepstakes practices. Here are some of the top things that aren't signs of scams.
1. Asking Winners for a Social Security Number
While it's wise to be careful about giving your social security number to strangers, it's perfectly normal for sponsors to ask for a social security number as part of the due diligence they do to verify winners. For more information, see Why Do Sponsors Ask for Social Security Numbers
2. Asking for a Notarized Affidavit for Small Wins
There's a common misconception that sponsors only ask for affidavits for prizes over $600 in value.
The truth is that sponsors are required to get an affidavit for prizes over $600 in value, but they can require one for any prize value. I've won $25 prizes that needed a notarized affidavit, and I've heard of them being required for even smaller prizes. If you're looking for a low-cost place to get an affidavit notarized, check out Where Can I Find a Notary for Affidavits?
3. Win Notification Arrives by Email
Most of the time, winners are notified of large prizes by telephone or registered mail -- but not always. Email is a perfectly legitimate way to receive win notifications, so pay close attention to your inbox. Read Why Use a Separate Sweepstakes Email
to find out how using a dedicated email address just for sweepstakes entry can reduce the number of sweepstakes scams you receive.
4. Winning Email or Letter Has Your Name Misspelled
If a winning email doesn't use your name at all, it's a red flag that you might be receiving a scam -- but it's not a sure thing. Similarly, a misspelling in your name isn't a great sign, but it could be that you made a typo when you entered your name, or the sponsor's fingers slipped when typing up your win notification. This alone is not enough to indicate a sweepstakes scam.
5. Paying Port Taxes, Hotel Room Taxes, or Other Special Vacation Taxes
When you are asked to pay taxes to a sweepstakes sponsor instead of to the IRS, it's usually a clear sign that you are being scammed. The rare exception is some taxes on vacation prizes
, like port taxes on a cruise or airport taxes for flights. Read that linked article to learn how to tell the difference between legitimate vacation taxes and scams.
It's very important to stay alert for sweepstakes scams. However, it's equally important to not let your wins pass you by because of things that may seem a little strange, but are actually a normal part of the win notification process. It's always a good idea to verify your wins
before responding, and if you have any questions, ask in the sweepstakes forum
to get feedback on whether a win is legitimate or not.