I get this question a lot and I thought I should list some of the ways you can tell if a sweepstakes is legitimate.
You may not like it but making sure you are entering a legitimate sweepstakes will require some work on your part and ultimately your responsibility. Unless you are entering from a legitimate site like Sweeties Sweeps, where the person posting the sweepstakes has done the research for you, then you will need to take some time to make sure where you put your personal information is legitimate and safe.
#1 Legitimate Sources
#2 Official Rules
A legitimate sweepstakes should have some form of official rules listed on their website. Large companies often pay judging agencies to setup, run, and pick the winners for the sweepstakes. They will make official rules for each promotion that are binding and legal. This is not always the case when a smaller company runs a giveaway. Maybe they do not understand the importance of providing their visitors with official rules but they could still be hosting a legitimate sweepstakes.
#3 No Purchase Necessary
No purchase necessary will usually be listed at the top of the official rules. Sometimes it is the very first line. However, smaller companies may not know to put this information in the rules or on their website but that doesn’t mean they are requiring you to purchase something. Just read the entry form to make sure you don’t have to purchase anything before entering. A company cannot legally require you to purchase anything to enter a sweepstakes. If they require a code from a specially marked box they have to give you an alternative method of getting that code. Sometimes they will provide the code online and other times they may require that you send away for the code. Sometimes you even have to provide the envelope and stamp to have it mailed back to you. This is perfectly legal.
Note: A contest CAN require an entrance fee because it is not a sweepstakes. A contest requires skill such as writing an essay, entering a photograph, writing a recipe, etc. That is a totally different thing than requiring a purchase.
#4 No Payment or Credit Card Required
Since a legitimate sweepstakes cannot legally require a purchase they should not be asking for a credit card or payment of any kind. You should also not have to pay for shipping although it is not illegal for them to ask this. If it is a small company maybe they can only afford to give you the prize. It is your choice whether you pay shipping to get your prize but I have never been asked this and probably would decline it if asked.
#5 No SSN Required
A legitimate sweepstakes will not require a Social Security number to enter. You may have to give this out at some point to claim a prize if you have to fill out a W9 form or affidavit but that is after you won the prize, not to enter to win.
A sweepstakes is a marketing tool for a company to help them promote their website, product, or further the image of their brand. Many times you will find out who is sponsoring (paying for the prizes) by looking in the official rules. Once again, if it is a small company or blog they may not have a sponsor. They may be giving out the prize(s) themselves.
#7 Contact Information
A legitimate sweepstakes should have a way of contacting them whether by email, phone or mail. If you are contacted first and want more verification then reply to their email or ask them by phone to provide you with some proof that this is a real sweepstakes.
Other things to look out for that are Iffy:
- You must be 25 and have a valid credit card – usually a timeshare
- You must will out lots of offers before you get to the entry form – they are putting you on a list to send you lots of other offers
My Disclaimer: I do my best to make sure that the sweepstakes I post are legitimate. However, many times there are ads on my site that promote sweepstakes that I have no knowledge about. Ads change all of the time so there is no way I can monitor each and every one of them. If you follow an ad it could most definitely be for a legitimate sweepstakes but at that point it is up to you to look for official rules and read them as well before entering.
An informed sweeper is a safe sweeper!
I appreciate the information.
I guess the SSN doesn't count for the Marlboro one though. I imagine its because of all the lawsuits they've received for selling to minors.
Thank you for this and all the great info on this site.
thanks sweetie! youre the best.