Sunday, April 01, 2007

Watch out for sweepstakes scams

My friend called me today to tell me that she won a cruise. I told her great, now what did she have to do to claim the prize. She started telling me all of the terms and conditions and I stopped her in mid-sentence. "Scam" I shouted. "But it's free" she replied. No it's not, and I'll tell you why.

First, let me say that I used to be a semi-professional sweeper. Yep, that's what we were called. The people who enter sweepstakes all the time. It's a hobby, but a lot of people take it very seriously. I did too until it got to be too expensive.

But onto the scams:

1. If you have to pay anything to claim your prize, it's a scam. Real sweepstakes don't require you to pay anything to claim prizes.

2. If you're told you won a cruise and have to pay miscellaneous expenses, it's not only a scam, but probably a time share pitch. They offer a 3-4 day cruise to the Bahamas. You pay port charges and some other fees. Sometimes they offer a room in the Bahamas. After they total all of the fees, it's over $500 per person. Then you have to sit through a time share presentation. And make no mistake about it, these are high pressured pitches geared towards getting you to sign. The best thing to do is turn down this "prize" and book your own trip.

3. You win something and as a "bonus" you get a bunch of magazines for some ridiculously cheap price. Scam. Not only do you not get your prize, but you have a hard time cancelling all of those magazine subscriptions.

4. You're at the mall and there's a sign up box to win a car, or some other fabulous prize. Scam. It usually puts you on a mailing list of some sort. If you read the fine print, you see that they might be running this "contest" in malls all over the country. Because you signed up for it, it also circumvents the Do Not Call list.

We all know the if it sounds too good to be true adage, but it's something about hearing "You Won!" that makes us throw all of that out of the window. Just keep your cool and request all of the information in writing before you give out any of your personal information.


Michael said...

Thanks Sabrina, this is great information for all of my sweepers over at

Sabrina said...

I'll be sure to check out your site!