Tag Archives: Prize

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.

Your Timeline or Mine?

A few weeks ago, in an online sweepers forum that I check every once in a while, someone complained they were not getting their prize in a timely manner.  They had won close to the beginning of summer and here it was almost October. Their main question was will I still have to pay taxes on a prize I haven’t yet received?  Responses to this post assured the prize winner that he would get his prize before the end of the year.  That it was normal for very large companies to take a long time to fulfill the prize.  Others suggested that the prize winner contact, and continue to contact, the prize fulfillment company until he got a clear answer to his question.  Still others said that bothering the fulfillment company does not speed the process along.

I actually didn’t think much of this post because such a situation had never happened to me.  I could not relate to the original post and I could not deliver any advice on the matter.  Until shortly after that when it happened to me!  I won a prize and sent in all my required paperwork.  After not hearing anything, I followed up two weeks later to verify they had received my documents.  I was assured they had and was told I would be hearing from someone soon.  More than a month went by and I got a little concerned.  I reached out one more time, afraid they would see me as a pest but also afraid I would not get my prize.  At this time, I was told that everything was in the final stages and I would be receiving it “soon.”  I have my fingers crossed that I will.

There are some things to remember however.  When you win a large prize from a large company, first the company must verify your eligibility through the paperwork you filled out for them.  Then, the matter is likely passed to a prize fulfillment company, who will have quite a lot of prizes to fulfill from various company’s sweepstakes.  You might not be first in line. But it is usually not the sponsoring company’s fault if things are not fulfilled in a timely manner.  Also, in the case of a big prize, the procurement department of the prize fulfillment company may have some hoops to jump through, paperwork, etc. in order to fulfill the prize.

All this is not to say never follow up.  If done in a polite and well-timed manner, following up on a prize taking a long time to receive can be a good idea.  But don’t necessarily jump to the conclusion that you will never get your prize from a sweepstakes.  We are very excited about our wins and want things to happen on our own timeline, but unfortunately it happens on theirs.

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder…

announcementimage

If you’ve been following this blog, you probably noticed that I took a hiatus for about a half a year.  As often happens, life events get in the way.  However, I’m pleased to say that I am back at it, and re-committed to making this blog at least a weekly habit. And just because I haven’t been writing doesn’t mean I haven’t been sweeping.  In fact, this summer I won the most valuable prizes yet, and had three big wins in a row!

You may remember that one of my sweepstakes resolutions for this year was to teach a community education course on sweepstakes.  Well, I applied to do it but got a gentle rejection that such a class was not what they were looking for at this time.  My mind went wild with why not!  Was there not enough interest in the community?  Was there a problem with how I phrased my proposal?  Or my biggest concern, did they have the wrong Idea about sweepstakes (not understanding they are free or thinking it is a form of gambling).  Because I was notified by letter, I never had the opportunity to speak with them or answer any questions they may have had.

As luck would have it, I noticed that for their fall programs, the community education program was offering a class called Learn to Teach What You Love.  I figured if the problem lay on my end, this would get me organized and ready to teach in the future, so I registered.  The class is happening tomorrow night and I will let you know if it is helpful.

I look forward to hearing from you, my readers, about how your sweepstakes hobby is going, whether you have any questions, or suggestions for future blog posts. I look forward to getting reacquainted with you as summer turns to cooler weather, sports themed sweepstakes, and the mad race toward the holidays!

Book Review, Interview with Tyneisha Fondren, and GIVEAWAY!

After reading – and loving – Tyneisha Fondren’s first book on the hobby of sweepstakes called Winning Is Not For The Lucky: A Friendly, Creative, And Unique Guide To Entering Sweepstakes (reviewed in my Dec. 24, 2015 post), I went in search on Amazon for more incredible sweeping advice from her.  Luckily, I did not have to wait long!  In January, Fondren published her second book on sweepstakes Tweet Your Way To Prizes: How To Use Twitter To Find, Enter, and Win Sweepstakes.

One thing I like about this book is that whether you’re a beginner or a more seasoned sweeper, there is information in it that will be valuable to you.  Let’s take myself as an example.  I would consider myself a more seasoned sweeper in that I have been entering sweepstakes on a regular basis for about 5 years.  However, most of my entries are the forms on sponsor websites and to some extent Facebook entries.  My working knowledge of Twitter was minimal, and certainly not enough to effectively find and enter sweepstakes.  I had a Twitter profile, knew the basics of retweeting, and because I didn’t really understand how hashtags worked, I had unsuccessfully entered to win through one Twitter party.

Tweet Your Way To Prizes was a game-changer for me.  This book will both show you the basics of Twitter and teach you how to locate and enter sweepstakes using this popular social media platform.  If you think you may not need to utilize Twitter to win prizes, think again!  Fondren shows you the growing importance of Twitter in hobby sweeping today, and the sheer number of additional sweepstakes you could be entering through this method.

Step-by-step Fondren’s book will help you optimize the set-up of your Twitter account to be the most successful at sweeping, while also showing you how to use your account effectively.  You will learn fast and simple methods for finding sweepstakes for things you want to win, techniques to avoid scams, using retweets and hashtags, participating in Twitter parties, and much more!  As a bonus, the book also offers an interesting interview to offer another point of view.

So no matter if you are looking for a complete guide to using Twitter to help boost your sweepstakes hobby, just need a few tips and pointers, or want a refresh on an important social media platform, Fondren’s book will have what you are looking for.  You can pick it up on Amazon HERE.

author interview

I was fortunate to be able to ask Tyneisha Fondren some questions about sweeping, her books, and life as an author.  Here is my interview with her:

Q. How long have you been entering sweepstakes and what brought you to the hobby?

A. I first started sweeping in October of 2012. I was actually on the hunt for freebies and coupons as I was looking for a way to help my family save money. I ran across an article about this sweepstakes hobby so after a little more digging I joined one of the main sweepstakes sites and started entering. I was an unorganized mess but I won a Puma gym bag that first month and there was no looking back!

Q. Your first book on sweeping, Winning is Not For The Lucky: A Friendly, Creative, and Unique Guide To Entering Sweepstakescame out in December 2015.  What initially inspired you to write books on the hobby of entering sweepstakes?

A: I wasn’t sure I should write anything about sweepstakes at first, to be honest. I’ve been sweeping less than 4 years and I’m still learning so much every day. But I love to write, and I love this amazing hobby, so I thought, why not combine the two? I really feel like there is so much out there for everyone to benefit from entering sweepstakes so if I can help people find the same excitement that I’ve found by sweeping, that’s what I want to do!

Q. In your second book, Tweet Your Way To Prizes: How To Use Twitter To Find, Enter, and Win Sweepstakes  (published Jan 2016), you hone in on one method of sweepstakes entry.  Was there a personal experience that inspired you to focus on Twitter?

A. I’ve been pretty successful on Twitter when it comes to winning. I’ve won gift cards, electronics, beauty products, clothes, and so much more. I’ve found sweepstakes that literally had only a single entry, and I’ve won them. I’ve seen people say that they avoid Twitter because it seems complicated but my experience has been the opposite. There is GREAT potential to win amazing prizes through Twitter so I wanted to get more in depth and hopefully show people how they can better utilize it to win.

Q. What was the hardest part about writing your books?

A. I didn’t use an outline to write my first book, so that one was harder. I prefer to write as I go but it’s an easy way to get writer’s block too. When that happened I would take a break and do a few sweeps. For the second book I outlined everything first and ended up finishing 2 weeks ahead of schedule. So I guess staying organized and focused was the most difficult part.

Q. Did you learn anything while researching and writing your books?

A. I learned that there is still a stigma associated with sweepstakes. Many people look upon them negatively or think that they are all scams. It kind of makes me sad because I’ve won some amazing prizes for my family and I wish people would try to get informed on what this hobby is about instead of immediately looking at it in a negative way. I have friends and family that I know could really benefit from entering sweepstakes if they would just give it a chance.

Q. For both sweepers and authors, it is often hard to feel supported by those around us.  Other than family members, is there a person or place you go to for support?

A. One of the best parts of this hobby is interacting with other sweepers! I have a very small group of sweeper friends and we all support each other. Those ladies were nice enough to read my books and give me feedback. I TRY not to complain too much when I’m not winning but if I really need to, I talk to them. And of course my hubby and kids are my number one support system. Especially my hubby- he believed in me first.

Q. What is your latest news or current projects?

A. I’m hoping to have my next book out by my birthday, March 23rd. That one will focus on running an online business while taking care of small children. As a stay at home mom of 3 kids aged 3 and under, I can tell you that there is an entirely different set of challenges when it comes to being a small business owner and a parent of little ones. It won’t be a sweepstakes book per se, but I WILL be talking about how sweepstakes can help get your online business off the ground through gift cards and such, so stay tuned for that!

Q. Do you have any bottom line advice on entering sweepstakes for your readers?

A. If this is something you want to do, first set any doubt aside. You are a winner, and you will win. If you can’t accept that first part, don’t expect to be successful. Next, have no excuses. Through the Internet, you can learn anything you need to win; there is no “I can’t” or “I don’t know how”. I will Google the heck out of something if I don’t know it! Get organized, make friends, maximize your time, and of course, enter, enter, enter!

Giveaway graphic

This giveaway is now over.  Thank you to all who participated!  The winners have been contacted.

Incoming!

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!

 

The Home State Advantage

Local, state, and regional sweepstakes are easier to win.  Unlike sweepstakes open nation-wide, they often restrict entries to those who live in a certain city or select geographic area.  This means there will be a smaller amount of entries into the sweepstakes.  If you don’t live in the select area, you can’t enter.  What this means for you is better odds of winning!

There are many ways that I have been successful at finding local sweepstakes.  The first thing I usually search for are local radio station and television station websites.  They often have a contests or promotions section on their websites.  They want to target their listening and viewing areas, so will often limit entries to people in that geographic area.

Another place I search for local sweepstakes is my local mall.  Sometimes local shops and jewelry stores will run promotions to get customers in.  The website for your local mall may have a section for what is happening in their stores that includes drawings.

And don’t neglect other local businesses, especially those having a grand opening celebration.  It’s good to keep your eyes and ears open to mailed flyers and radio announcements for a new store opening or celebrating an anniversary.  Often these businesses will try to get you in the door by offering great prizes like shopping sprees, cash, gift cards, and more!

Have you heard about a local festival or event that is going to have businesses (and sometimes nonprofits) tabling?  I have picked up both freebies and sweepstakes entries at these events.  In fact, last night I attended a local community fundraiser.  Even though I had to buy a ticket to gain entry, I had a great time and was able to enter two sweepstakes.  One for a Christmas tree loaded down with sweet stuff and another for $1000.

And if all else fails, you might try to do a google search for your city or state with the word “sweepstakes.”  You might be surprised what comes up!  Just remember, true sweepstakes are no purchase necessary.

For more local and regional sweepstakes you might also check out a site that I just joined called Sweeties Secret Sweeps.  I have not been a member very long, but there were a number of local sweeps I did not find on my own listed there.

However you go about it, I wish you much luck in finding good odds sweepstakes!

Sweeping: A Solitary Hobby or a Chance to Make Friends?

girl in chair at computer

I’ve tried twice to start a local sweepstakes club.  The first time was in California.  I had about a dozen people sign up on our website to join the group.  But when it came down to attending a meeting, the only one that showed up was my mother-in-law.  She was not a sweeper but showed interest in learning and wanted to support me.  I kept the club going a few months, but never had anyone attend one of our meetings at a local coffee shop.

The second time I tried to start a local sweepstakes club was in Idaho.  I had about half dozen people sign up, 3 of which included friends of mine who wanted to learn but were mostly there to support me.  Others wrote on the website that they wanted to learn and wanted to attend meetings, but no one else ever showed up in person.

People have pointed out to me that it is a solitary hobby – for the most part you sit in front of your computer, alone at your desk at home.  Others have said it’s probably because people do not want to share promotions they know about or their methods because they want less competition.  But I do not think either of these statements are true.

First of all, while entering online sweepstakes is a hobby pursued from your personal computer, people do indeed seek out fellow sweepers to socialize with.  Contest Queen keeps a list of successful clubs around the nation.  Also there is a large annual National Sweepstakes Convention.  This year they are limiting attendance to 700 people.  That’s a lot of sweepers who want to come together and meet, learn, socialize, and win!

Second, sweepers share their methods and the promotions that they enter all the time!  That is why there are sweepstakes websites (by hobby sweepers) set up to share information.  Plus there are books and pamphlets on Amazon geared at teaching people how to begin this hobby.  And there are blogs, like this very one, to share links, ideas, and more!  I even post interesting promotions on a Facebook page called Boise Sweepstakes Club.

That definitely doesn’t make sweepers seem like secretive loners!  So it’s a mystery to me why in some areas it is harder to start a sweepstakes club or find fellow sweepers to socialize with.  Any ideas?

Luck of the Holidays!

You will hear many sweepers say on sweepstakes message boards that the holidays are no time to neglect your sweeping.  Many people believe they have more luck winning on holidays, especially for instant wins, because less people are entering.  Instead, they are of course eating, watching TV, and spending time with family.  Many people are travelling as well.

I don’t know if this is statistically true or not, but I have certainly won some instant win prizes on holidays past.  This year, I’m heading to the mall on Thanksgiving to enter two sweepstakes offering instant and sweepstakes prizes.

JC Penney Black Friday Sweepstakes (Ends Nov 30)

Macy’s Black Friday Walk In and Win Instant Win Game (Ends Nov 29)

I’ll let you know if I win anything major while doing my contests today, and I hope you will let me know what you think about holidays being lucky.  Did you win today?

happy thanksgiving

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!