Never Pay to Play
It's illegal for a company to require you to buy something or pay a fee in order
to win or claim a prize.
Buying something doesn't improve your chances of winning! It's illegal for a company to even suggest that your chances will be better if you make a purchase.
Don't believe that you have to give the company money for taxes on your prize.
Taxes will be deducted from your winnings or you will pay them directly to the government.
Guard Your Credit Card and Bank Account Numbers
No legitimate sweepstakes company will ask for this information. Your social security number may be required for tax reporting purposes if you have won. Don't provide that information unless you're absolutely sure that you entered the contest and that you know the company operating it.
Be on Guard for Imposters
Some con artists use company names that are identical or very similar to well-known, legitimate sweepstakes operators. Tell them that you'll get back to them and contact the real companies to ask if there is any connection.
Advance on your Winnings Ploy
Be wary of offers to send you an "advance" on your "winnings". Some con artists use this ploy to build trust and get money from your bank. They send you a check for part of your "winnings," instructing you to deposit it and then wire payment to them for taxes, bonding, or some other phony purpose. The bank tells you the check has cleared because the normal time has passed to be notified that checks have bounced. After you wire the money, the check that you deposited finally bounces because it turned out to be an elaborate fake. Now the crooks have your payment, and you're left owing your bank the amount that you withdrew.
Get the Details in Writing
Legitimate sweepstakes companies will give you written information about how a contest works, including the odds of winning, the value of the prizes, the fact that no purchase is necessary, and an explanation that buying does not improve your chances of winning.
Don't be Fooled by Official-looking Mail
It's not necessarily legitimate just because the envelope is marked "urgent" and the contents look impressive. One clue that you haven't really won is if the letter was sent at bulk mail rates. That means that thousands of other people are receiving the same thing.
Be Careful With Foreign Sweepstakes Companies
Be especially cautious about foreign sweepstakes companies. Many fraudulent sweepstakes companies that target U.S. consumers are located in Canada or other countries, which makes it much more difficult for law enforcement agencies to pursue them.
Remember That Con Artists Lie
It's hard to imagine that there are people who are so cruel that they will tell you you've won something when you haven't, but it's true.
Counterfeit Money Detection
This is a great guide to assist you in detecting counterfeit bills. It is a "must read" for all business owners and for organizations who receive cash for donations, purchases, or services. It presents detailed photos regarding identification of paper, security features, and scenario guidelines.