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Sweepstakes Fraud

About Sweepstakes Scams And Fraud

Most online sweepstakes are legitimate, but fraud exists everywhere and flourishes online. This section was designed to as a resource on how to avoid fraud and help you spot the warning signs.

Scams will often target the elderly, but recently have been targeting the young more and more. They can sometimes be very sophisticated and convincing. The perpetrators of these crimes usually reside in countries where they can hide in relative anonymity which makes it is extremely difficult to catch and prosecute them. Here you will learn a little about sweepstakes fraud and the warning signs.

Types of Fraud

Foreign Lottery Scams:
This is one of the most common type of sweepstakes scam. 90% of the reports Hypersweep receives involve some type of variant on this concept. You will receive a winning notification from a lottery you have likely never heard of. Sometimes however it can also be a familiar name, or even even a well known one. You will be notified that you have won a substantial sum of money, but there is a hitch. Due to processing, taxes, insurance or any number of other reasons, you will be required to send a relatively small fee in order to receive your prize. This is nothing more than a way of baiting the unsuspecting in an attempt to trick them into sending cash to the scam artists.
Keep this is mind:

  • You will never win a lottery you did not enter.
  • As of this writing, no known lotteries notify winners by e-mail.
  • It is illegal to sell tickets for foreign lotteries across international borders.
  • ONLY government agencies collect taxes on winnings. A legitimate sweepstakes or lottery will never ask for tax payments.
  • Requiring money for the delivery of a prize is illegal except for raffle type drawings where the fee is collected at the time of entry. No legitimate contest will ask for a fee AFTER you have supposedly won.

In a relatively new twist on this scam you will receive an actual check for you winnings. You will be instructed to deposit this check and then send a small amount back, usually by a wire service like Western Union. In this scenario the scam artist will pressure you to send the money to them IMMEDIATLY after depositing the check. They will be adamant about this point since they know the check they sent you is going to bounce like a basketball! Although the check will look legitimate and often even be issued from a bank you may know and trust, it is counterfeit. Even if you don't send them any money, just depositing the check might get you into hot water with your bank and the police since cashing fraudulent checks is a crime! Remember that legitimate sweepstakes require the signing and returning of an affidavit before sending out any prize valued at more than $600. Even if you are familiar with the organization awarding the prize, don't send any money for any reason!

Direct Deposits:
In this scam you will be notified of a win (usually again from a foreign country) and instructed to supply your bank or credit card information in order to receive your prize. Legitimate sweepstakes do not send wins by direct deposit, nor do they need your bank or credit card number to verify your identity. The only sensitive information that a sweepstakes administrator needs to process your win is a social security number. You should never supply financial information to anyone unless you are sure of their identity.


Red Flags

There are certain traits that often give away fraud. Here are a few things to watch out for that may indicate you are dealing with a sweepstakes scam:

Since many of these scams come from individuals for whom English is a 2nd language, they will often be filled with glaring errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Even if the message is typo free, look for strange wording as if it was poorly translated.

Untraceable sources
It's possible that some smaller, legitimate sweepstakes sponsors could notify you with a free email address, but keep your guard up if the email does not match the company from which it supposedly originates. And especially if it comes from a random address like "". As far as postal mail goes; legitimate sweepstakes administrators rarely send out win notifications by bulk mail. They use first class postage with delivery confirmation, or services such as Fed Ex to deliver notifications.

You are not addressed by name
False winning notifications are sent out by the hundreds of thousands, especially when sent by email. Often, they are sent without knowing the name of the people they're contacting. If your win notice has a generic salutation like "Dear Sir" it's a good indication that it's fraud.

You are asked to send cash up front
If you are required to pay money for ANY reason in order for your prize to be delivered, you are likely dealing with a scam, or an illegal sweepstakes. The exception is paying port, or air taxes on a travel prize.

Do Some Research
Your best defense against sweepstakes fraud is knowledge, and you are staring at one of the best research tools available! If you receive a winning notification form an unknown identity, search the name on Google or your search engine of choice. Chances are, if it's a scam you'll find out fairly quickly.
How To Report Fraud

If you've been the victim of sweepstakes fraud, you can report the specifics here so others can be warned of any new threats.

Your E-mail:
Additional Reporting

Here are a few additional places you can report any incidents of fraud:

Practice Safe Sweeping

Hypersweep offers thousands of links to safe sweepstakes online. The site is member supported with no paid placements or ads so we are free to reject any sweepstakes that are questionable. If you're not yet a member, give it a try for free. And as always, sweep safe!

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