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.
In past blog posts, I have talked about some reasons for sweeping other than just winning prizes for yourself. These included gifting to friends and family and donating to local charitable causes. But there is another advantage to winning prizes: selling them to buy something else you want or need. I have two examples from this year where I won large prizes and sold them for one thing I wanted and something else I needed.
A little over a year ago on July 21, 2016 I was fortunate enough to win a regional contest for a Yamaha Waverunner and trailer worth around $9000. At first I couldn’t decide whether to keep it or sell it. So, I kept it unused in my garage through the winter, and in the spring decided that it was best to sell it. I took it back to the dealer that distributed the prize and negotiated a fair price. I then took the money to do something I have always wanted to do! I registered myself and a friend for the National Sweepstakes Convention Cruise, which happens this fall. I had been wanting to attend the convention for several years, but was never in a financial position to do it. Selling the Waverunner connected me to my dream goal (and quite a nice vacation opportunity!)
Earlier this year I won a $5000 pinball machine. When I got it, the key was missing and though I tried hard to track it down from the sponsor and distributor, I had no luck. I had a machine I couldn’t play. Knowing this, the distributor put me in touch with a local businessman who was looking for a pinball machine. We negotiated a price, and the buyer paid me and picked it up. The very next day, our hot water heater broke. It was an unexpected expense, and due to other priorities, not one we had set money aside for. How fortunate that I had just sold the pinball machine! We used that money to get a new water heater.
So now I don’t just enter sweepstakes where I want the prize. I enter sweepstakes for prizes I perhaps could not use, but I know that I could sell for money. Then I can treat myself to my true desires!
As you may have noticed, there is a new layout and color scheme to the blog since your last visit. I wanted to make it more fun to look at, as well as more colorful. Plus I loved the owl with the phrase Shine On because according to the Urban Dictionary, that phrase means: “The act of showing off your bling or expensive thing that glistens or “shines” in the light that is a sign you have excessive amounts of money (Rims, diamonds, gold, silver, etc.)” What better phrase for a sweepstakes website?!