The world of online sweepstakes is created by people who want to have fun and love the excitement of winning.

Businesses use giveaways to attract people to their brand, build trust, and engage new customers.

Sadly, some people see sweepstakes as an opportunity to take advantage of others.

In this blog, we will teach you how to identify if a giveaway, sweepstake, or competition is a scam.

Firstly, what are the risks?

The goal of most sweepstake scams is to get money out of unsuspecting sweepstake lovers, but sometimes they will add your name to a database of potential scam victims as well. This means you might continue to be targeted for scams after you fall prey to one.

Sometimes your email will be added to a dodgy mailing list, after which you get spammed with annoying offers you have no interest in (and probably more scams as well).

Scams are not something anyone wants to deal with, so it pays to be careful and learn what the red flags are when collecting a prize from an alleged competition host or sponsor.

What is standard practice for collecting a prize online?

So you get a notification that you’ve won a competition you entered. You’re excited, but it seems too good to be true. Then there is a list of requirements, and you start to get suspicious.

It’s always better to proceed with caution, but there are also a few standard requirements and procedures that legitimate sweepstakes follow. Here are a few.

Asking for your social security number

It might feel a bit personal, but don’t feel weird if the sponsor needs your social security number for you to claim your prize. Most competition hosts need it for tax purposes, so if your prize is worth more than $600 and they don’t ask for your social security number, it’s a good reason to do some digging to see if the competition is legitimate.

Notarized affidavits

A notarized affidavit is basically when you swear that the information in an affidavit is true, and you do this in front of a notary public. If your prize is over $600 in value, it is standard practice for winners to notarize their affidavit, but you might need to sign one even for small prizes, like a book or t-shirt.

You get notified by email or social media

A lot of sweepstake hosts will notify you by email or social media if you have won a prize. This is standard practice and not something you should be suspicious about.

It’s a good idea to keep track of the competitions you enter. Include their business name and email along with the date you entered and a link to the competition in a spreadsheet and then check it against any win notifications you receive.

If you get a letter or email saying you have won a competition you never entered, you can safely assume that it’s a scam.

The sponsor asks you to pay taxes on a vacation prize in advance

Vacation prizes are the only types of sweepstakes that require you to pay anything to claim your prize. If it’s not a vacation prize and they are asking you to pay for anything, it’s a scam.

Even so, this will be listed in the rules of the sweepstake, so if you check, you should find this listed as a condition.

This is a good thing to note before you enter vacation giveaways. The trip might be free, but there will be associated fees and taxes you will have to pay if you win.

What are the red flags that a competition is a scam?

Now that you know what to expect if you win a prize, here are the red flags to be aware of.

1. You have to pay to collect your prize

Except for the taxes on vacation holidays mentioned above, if you are ever asked to pay to receive your prize, the competition is a scam.

Some scammers will ask you to give them your bank or credit card information to claim your prize. If you are asked to do this, cut contact with the person you’re dealing with.

2. You won a sweepstake you never entered

Pretty straightforward, but if you get a notification that you’ve won a sweepstake you never entered, it’s a dead giveaway that the prize is fake. These are not mistakes that happen, and it might be tempting to believe you have won something, but don’t fall for it.

If you have been scammed in the past, you could be on a database for potential scam victims.

This is why you should keep a record of the sweepstakes you enter. When you’re entering a lot of sweepstakes a day, you can quickly lose track of them, get a false win notification and assume it’s from a sweepstake you entered a few months ago and forgot about.

Another sign of this type of scam is when you receive a win notification to an old email you never use, or the sponsor doesn’t know any of your information, like your name. Some competition scammers send out emails to addresses they bought or simply spam every address they can find.

If it feels vague and unauthentic, it probably is.

3. You win the lottery, except you never bought a ticket

This is a clear sign of a scam.

You can’t win a lottery without buying a ticket. This is especially obvious if it’s coming from a foreign lottery because it’s illegal to sell lottery tickets internationally.

4. A third party contacts you instead of the competition sponsor

Real competition sponsors will contact the winners directly. If you get a letter, email, or phone call from a third party saying they represent another organization, it’s almost certainly a scam.

Sometimes these scammers pose as government organizations or another authority, or something that sounds like an official corporation but is entirely made up.

A Google search will tell you if the alleged organization is real, and a phone call to the business they claim to be representing will alert them to what’s going on in their name.

Use a secure platform, like Doorluck

If you are suspicious of a win notification, trust your gut and research the competition and its representing host. It might turn out to be 100% legitimate, but it’s not worth the risk if its a scam.

We realize that the internet is full of sweepstake opportunities. Still, if you’d like the security of knowing that you’re not dealing with a fraudster, Doorluck only hosts secure competitions so that our visitors can enjoy the fun without jeopardizing their online security.

Check out some of the great things you can win by entering one of our site’s legitimate sweepstakes.