I don’t know why, but it seems like this time of year breeds sweepstakes, drawings, and giveaways. Maybe it’s to cash in on the people who are afraid to pay for the holidays, maybe it’s because, at the end of the year, people are realizing how much money they didn’t make this year, or maybe I’m only noticing now because I just ran a giveaway to celebrate my 1 year anniversary. Whatever the reason, there are a lot of giveaways going on this month and, because a certain segment of the population sucks, there are a number of scam sweepstakes going on, too.
Knowing some basic facts about sweepstakes–legal and otherwise–can help you stay safe and avoid wasting your time and money. Here are 13 things you should know:
- Foreign sweepstakes are always scams. You didn’t win the Spanish lottery. I’m sorry, but it’s true.
- Sweepstakes winners are always chosen at random. If there’s something you can do to influence your chances, it’s not a sweepstakes.
- Contests involve some skill, whether it’s captioning a photo, answering a trivia question, or showing up in a bikini. It is legal to charge a fee to enter a contest.
- Lotteries cost money and must be random. There are almost no cases where a lottery is legally run by a private enterprise. The government has reserved this privilege for themselves.
- Since a prize, chosen at random for a consideration is the definition of a lottery, there is nothing you can do to influence the results of a legal sweepstakes, aside from not entering. Buying a product will not help.
- Odds suck. You are not likely to win, unless you enter a giveaway at a small-ish blog. Sweepstakes and lotteries are required to disclose the odds of winning, generally, 1 in a gazillion.
- Businesses(and blogs!) hold giveaways or sweepstakes to draw attention to themselves. It’s marketing and advertising, every time. Companies do not give out thousands of dollars in prizes because they like you.
- I give our prizes because I like you. And I want the attention. It’s marketing, advertising, and gratitude.
- If you have to pay to get a random chance to win something, it’s a lottery. If it’s not run by the government, it’s almost definitely an illegal lottery. Sweepstakes are free.
- Sometimes the entry solicitations look official. They are not. The companies do that to get more people to open their envelopes. It is illegal to misrepresent themselves as a government agency.
- Always read the fine print. There are a lot of things that can be included in the fine print to make it less attractive, like the right to sell your contact information, or your soul. Try getting that back after a long weekend.
- If you don’t want to receive sweepstakes garbage in the mail, write to the company soliciting you. The Federal Deceptive Mail Prevention and Enforcement Act requires them to remove you from their mailing list within 60 days.
- If you want to get rid of all of the junk mail, write to the Direct Marketing Association’s Mail Preference Service, Post Office Box 643, Carmel, NY 10512 and they will remove you from the lists of their members for 5 years.
It is possible to make money with sweepstakes, but the odds are low. Personally, I think it’s a waste of time. Do you invest in the sweepstakes hobby?