Have you been contacted about a sweepstakes? Be careful, it could be fake

You may have received a call, email or letter saying you’ve won a sweepstakes, lottery or even a prize. But if they ask you to pay up, it’s probably a scam.

“Under the laws of most states and Federal Trade Commission guidelines, you can’t be made to pay a price for the chance of winning a prize. There always has to be a ‘no purchase necessary’ means of playing the game,” said Edgar Dworsky, founder of the consumer news and resource guide, consumerworld.org.

He says people get roped into sweepstakes scams and end up giving away money even if they’ve never entered to play the game.

“How could you win, if you never enter the sweepstakes? So, just remember you have to enter the sweepstakes in order to win. It’s not the other way around,” Dworsky said.

He said there are legitimate sweepstakes you can play at supermarkets or fast food chains.

“Buy a hamburger, buy $10 of groceries. That’s all legitimate. That’s fine,” Dworsky said. “They always have to have some official rules. Look on the website of the company that’s offering the promotion. See the ‘no purchase necessary’ means of playing the game.”

Scammers will say just about anything to get your money. Here are ways they try to trick you into thinking you really won a prize according to the Federal Trade Commission.

  • They use an official-looking name like “The National Sweepstakes Bureau,” or an agency that already exists and that you might recognize.
  • They ask for your personal information by getting you to click a link or download content.
  • Check the postmark if it comes by mail and check online to see if others are reporting that they got the same message — scammers will often use the same text sent out in a blast.

If you’re not sure about a contest or the company sending you a prize notification, search online to see if you find anything about them.

Sandra Jones

Sandra Jones is an Anchor/Reporter for WTOP. She’s been in the news industry for more than two decades.

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