Tag Archives: Congratulations

ANATOMY OF A SCAM LETTER

scam bulldog

Just this past week I received a tricky scam letter telling me “CONGRATULATIONS” because I had won the Sol Pacifico Cerritos “Great Giveaway” Contest.

I looked at all aspects of the notification letter to conclude that this was a scam.  Here are some of the things to look for.

  • Does the sender’s e-mail address (or name) exist at the company it claims to be from? Either a Google search or visiting the company’s website and doing a search should yield an answer. In the case of my letter, while the company existed, the name of the person it was sent from did not.
  • Check the date of the e-mail against the date the contest ended. If the contest ended quite a bit in the past and you are just getting notified, it should be a red flag.  While it is possible to receive notification months after a sweepstakes ends, it is just one of several things to consider together with other clues.  Checking the rules for the contest end date and drawing date will help decipher the answer.
  • Does the letter address you personally? Usually you must provide your basic information, including your name, to enter a sweepstakes. If the letter merely refers to you as “winner” then that is a red flag.  But again, this should be taken with all other clues.  Today I received a win notice that referred to me as “winner” but turned out to be legitimate.
  • Does the contest exist and did you enter it? Search for the name of the contest online. If you cannot find it referenced anywhere, it probably does not exist.  Also, if you did not enter the contest, whether it exists online or not, then you did not win it. In the case of my letter, I could not find that any such contest existed.
  • Does it cost money to claim your prize? On my letter, the prize description was for Free Roundtrip Airfare Tickets from certain airports.  However, upon closer examination, the redemption instructions included having to buy a 5-night minimum stay at their resort.  IMPORTANT: You never need to buy anything to claim a legitimate sweepstakes prize.
  • If the letter has an option that says, “Click here to leave mailing list,” that is a sure sign that it is not a personal letter, but rather a pitch that has gone out to an entire mailing list.
  • Are there links? Please do not click any links in the e-mail until you have verified that your win is legitimate.  These could be used by scammers to verify your personal information.
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Presents

By this time of year, most sweepers are waiting for incoming wins!  It’s a bittersweet time.  The holiday sweepstakes are ending, and most of the year’s contests are coming to a close by December 31.   On the one hand, it’s very exciting to imagine that in the coming weeks those win notifications you’ve been working so hard toward may arrive!  On the other hand, your list of sweepstakes to enter will dwindle until the 2016 sweepstakes start up over the next year, and you can bulk your entry list up again.

Do you like to be surprised by wins or do you prefer a heads up?  Oftentimes sponsors will send a prize via postal service, UPS or other method to your door without notifying you in advance.  While I find this can be fun, I also like the anticipation of waiting for a prize to arrive that I know is on its way.  Because of this, I recently signed up for UPS My Choice.  This is a free membership that, among other things, allows you to be notified if a UPS package is headed your way.  You still have the element of surprise in that the contents of the package are a mystery, but you at least know to expect a package and who it is coming from.

One more word of advice as 2015 winds down and 2016 greets us.  I have been reading many different articles lately that list some of the top scams of the year, and scams to be on the lookout for in the New Year.  Sweepstakes scams and scams involving claims that you have won prizes or money are rampant and top off many of the lists.  So please use caution when giving out information or accepting prizes.  Reviewing my November 16 post entitled “Don’t Fall Victim to Scams” is a good starting point for keeping safe.

Good luck as the 2015 sweeping year comes to a close.  May many prizes come your way!  I’ll let you know if I win anything, and you can do the same in the comments section of any post!

Happy New Year!

If You Won A Million Dollars…

How would you react if you got the call that you won a million dollars?  South Carolina teen Kaitlyn Jackson got the chance to find out when she won Old Navy’s Overnight Millionaire Sweepstakes.  You can listen to the call where she finds out she won on WSPA: CLICK HERE

To me, she sounds so shocked and stunned that she can barely muster enthusiasm!  I guess it takes a minute for something like that to sink in and not seem like a dream.  I know I was completely astonished when I won my first big prize – a Girlfriend’s Spa Getaway to Arizona.  I didn’t believe it was true at first, like I was being tricked.  But the woman who called was so nice and assured me it was real and I’d be getting some documentation in the mail so that I could accept the prize.

If I was that excited about a trip, I can’t imagine how I would be if I won that huge sum of money!  How would you react?  How would you spend it?  Have you had the opportunity to accept a big prize win?  If so, what did you do and say?  I love hearing success stories, so keep me posted in the comments!

 

Gratitude Board – My Way of Thanksgiving

Gratitude

In my last post I talked about vision boards – words and pictures put together in a collage to represent things you would like to win.  But there is the flip side to attracting the prizes you want.  I believe it is also important to have gratitude for the prizes you have already won!

My first gratitude board was a small cork board covered with congratulations messages and pictures of the things I’ve won.  Then I had to upsize to a medium sized board.  My luck kept growing, and now I have the biggest cork board I can find with pictures of all the prizes I have won over the years tacked to it.  No matter whether it was a small prize, like a coupon, or a big prize, like a trip, it gets included on my board.

This helps me remember to be thankful for the luck I have received.  I am thankful that winning prizes has allowed me to be generous to friends and family.  And I’m especially thankful for prizes that I can pass on to those in need.  Because while I love winning and keep a lot of my prizes, I believe sharing and gratitude go a long way in creating more luck.

Do you have any traditions of gratitude in your family?  Do you thank sweepstakes sponsors and otherwise show gratitude for your wins?  Please let me know in the comments!

A Fun and Easy Craft Project to Help Keep you Motivated!

Vision Board

If you enter a lot of sweepstakes but only receive a winning message occasionally, it can be a bit disheartening.  The more sweepstakes you enter and the more consistently you enter them increases your chances of winning.  But what do you do when your motivation starts to waver because you haven’t had a recent win?

One fun craft project I like to do is creating Vision Boards.   According to an article in the Huff Post earlier this year:

“If you think vision boards are bogus, then the joke’s on you. They work, and there’s actually a really simple explanation of why they work so well.

Creating a sacred space that displays what you want actually does bring it to life. What we focus on expands. When you create a vision board and place it in a space where you see it often, you essentially end up doing short visualization exercises throughout the day.”

For sweeping, this means pasting images and words on your board that represent the things you want to win.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. Magazines to cut pictures out. You can find tons of cheap magazines at thrift stores or you may already have a stash of magazines at your house.
  2. A board. I generally just use poster board these days, but when I first started out I used cork boards.  I found it more expensive to come up with tacks for the cork board than glue for the poster board.
  3. Scissors
  4. Tacks or glue to adhere your pictures.

When you have all your supplies together, you simply search through your magazines for pictures and words that represent the things you wish to win.  Cut these out and arrange them any way you like on your board.  When everything looks like you want it, fasten it on the board.  Now you can display the board in a place you will see it whenever you do your sweepstakes.

Visualizing every day what you want to win will help keep you motivated, and the motivation will help make sure you enter consistently, which increases your chance of winning!

Have fun with this project, and good luck!

Should I Use My Regular E-Mail Address to Enter Sweepstakes?

When I meet people just starting out sweeping I usually get asked about spam.  It is true that companies running sweepstakes sometimes collect and save your marketing information.  It’s also true that sometimes this information will get sold to third parties so they can advertise to you through e-mail.  There are sweepstakes that let you opt out of further marketing, sometimes by checking or unchecking a box on the sweepstakes entry form.  But, in general, this hobby will generate some spam e-mail.  The more sweeps you enter, the more junk e-mail you will probably get.

But there is a solution!  First, you can create a free e-mail account just for entering sweepstakes.  However, before you delete anything from your designated e-mail address, be sure to check it thoroughly for a winning notification.  I always check both my inbox and spam for winning letters just in case.

Second, some e-mail programs will let you set up filters to help organize your incoming mail.  In my case, anything addressed directly to me goes in to my main inbox.  Any e-mail with the word “unsubscribe” in it goes into a folder I call “Unsubscribe.”  This is because most winning letters will not have this word in it, but spam e-mail will have an option to unsubscribe from their list. While I still browse through the unsubscribe folder, most of what ends up there is genuine spam that I can either delete or unsubscribe from future messages from.

Another thing I do to ensure I don’t miss a winning notification in my unsubscribe folder is use the search feature of my e-mail program.  This feature allows me to select a folder– in this case the unsubscribe folder – and enter a search term.  I search for words like “winner” and “congratulations.”  Usually I don’t come up with anything, but occasionally I find one that didn’t make it into my regular inbox for some reason.

So, while I would recommend a designated e-mail address for entering sweepstakes, I also would not let the spam deter you from entering to win great prizes!  There are plenty of ways to manage your inbox, and seeing that “Congratulations!” message come in has always made it worth it to me.

Don’t Fall Victim to Scams!

You may have seen news articles about someone who fell victim to a sweepstakes scam.  Perhaps they lost money or their identity was stolen as a result.  How do you know when you’re being scammed?  How can you stay safe?

Most scams are e-mails, letters, or phone calls claiming that you have won a prize and requesting personal information or money in order to claim your prize.  It’s important to remember that a legitimate sweepstakes will never ask for your bank account information and there is never a fee to enter or claim your prize.

In my 5 years of entering sweepstakes, I have only received two scam messages.  One was a phone message telling me I’d won eleven free nights of camping.  The caller did not leave the name of the sweepstakes on her message, so I did a Google search for the phone number.  I came up with a private campsite in California that sells time shares.  Just to be sure, I then searched for the name of the campsite and the word “sweepstakes.”  Nothing came up but there were online complaints linked to the phone number. The complaints said they were called and told they won camping but were really targeted for a time share.  I decided not to call back, and they called me about a dozen more times before getting the message.

The other scam was a bit trickier.  I received a “Congratulations” e-mail that listed all the aspects of the prize that I had supposedly won, including airfare, hotel, activities and more.  I looked at my list of sweepstakes that I had entered and it wasn’t there, so I did a little more research just in case I had forgotten to track that one.  I searched Google for the sponsor and sweepstakes name and soon discovered there had been such a contest but that the entry period and prize was awarded one year ago to that day.  Someone else had won it, and now a scammer was using the company’s information about the prize to try to get me to respond with my personal information.  Luckily I caught on in time!

There are ways to stay safe from sweepstakes scams!

  1. Track Your Sweepstakes: If you didn’t enter it, you didn’t win it!
  2. Never give out bank account information or otherwise pay to claim a prize. A legitimate sweepstakes will never ask you for money.
  3. If you receive a vague win notification, be suspicious. Scam sweepstakes usually won’t know your name and won’t list the sweepstakes name or sponsor.
  4. Don’t be afraid to do a little research on the information in your win letter.  Approach it with a skeptical eye until the information can be verified.

4 Instant Wins You Should Enter Before They End!

Instant wins are especially exciting because you learn whether you have won a prize right away.  Sometimes instant wins come along that offer thousands of prizes or prizes with a very high value.  It’s fun to enter these!  There are four instant win sweepstakes going on now with good odds and good prizes.

RetailMeNot – What’s the Deal? Sweepstakes

Mars – Get Charged for the Holidays Sweepstakes

SC Johnson – Help Me Host Sweepstakes

SC Johnson – Help Get Me Home Sweepstakes

Good luck and let me know if you win and what it means to you!

You’re A Winner! Now About That Prize…

A big part of sweepstakes is waiting.  First you wait until the promotion conclusion to find out if you have won.  If you have and your prize is valuable, you may then wait until all proper paperwork is turned in and verified.  Finally you have to wait for your prize to arrive.

The promotion period could be as short as a day or even an hour, or it could be longer than a year.  The longer the promotion runs, it decreases your chances of winning because so many more people have the opportunity to enter.  Obviously, it also increases your wait time.

Hopefully you will soon get that “Congratulations!” message by e-mail, text, phone, or special delivery.  If the value is low, generally there is no paperwork and you can expect your prize to arrive no later than 6-12 weeks after your notification.  However, if you have won a more valuable prize, you may have to fill out an affidavit and other associated paperwork to verify yourself and for tax purposes.  Only after that is taken care of, and assuming you are verified, will you receive your prize.  Perhaps it’s a trip, a bicycle, a car, or that dream something you always wanted!

Other times, with lower value items, prizes may come unannounced.  I love waiting for the mail every day and love seeing a package truck on the street!  I have received many unexpected prizes such as gift cards and cosmetics this way.  I will open the package and, if there is a letter inside, I’ll usually say, “Oh, yes, I remember this sweepstakes!  I had no idea I was a winner!”

Lastly, I do want to remind you that you are responsible for taxes on your sweepstakes winnings.  So keep that in mind when you are entering contests valued at various amounts.

I hope you have been winning lots of great prizes and if you are just starting out, I can’t wait for you to get your first Congratulations! message.  Please let me know when you win!  I want to hear all about it!