Tag Archives: Winning

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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Selling Prizes for Fun and Fixing

Sold!

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!

Putting in a Little Extra Effort to Score the Prize

local-giveaways-button

It’s possible to win a prize in any sweepstakes.  Someone has to be the winner!  But there are certain conditions that make it easier to win.  It is much easier to win a regional or local contest because the entry pool is much smaller.  Now think about how many people will go out of their way to attend an event or go to a business to enter for a chance at a prize.  It’s not likely that near as many people will do this, because it is much more work than entering online or on social media.

Over just the past week and coming week, there have been five giveaways here where I live in Boise in which the rules require you to enter in person.

This past weekend a local coffee shop was having a grand opening celebration of their newest location.  They advertised for the opening on social media.  I saw on Facebook that they were giving a bike away as part of the celebration, but you had to come into the new location to register to win.  However, their ad only gave cross streets and no exact address.  My husband and I drove to the approximate location, but had no luck in finding the shop. So, in the end, I did not get to enter the giveaway.  This was a big mistake on the shop’s part because it limited the exposure of their new shop.  On the other hand, whoever won the bike likely had even less competition than usual for a local contest.

A local car dealership is giving away a backyard makeover. No purchase is necessary to enter to win, but you do have to physically go to the dealership to register to win.  I entered one of their giveaways last year, and remember that I did not even have to listen to a sales pitch.  I just told the associate I was only there to enter the drawing, and got to do so. For their current giveaway, I noticed the ad for it on Facebook today.  My husband and I drove down to the dealership only to find they were closed.  It did not say this in the ad, but perhaps I should have realized it was Sunday!  But the contest is going on until the end of the month, so I have another chance to enter.  Because the location was advertised, it is likely more people will enter this contest than the coffee shop one.  Indeed, the prize is also much bigger for this giveaway. However, being a local contest and the fact that you must enter in person still make the odds better than a national contest.

This weekend the local PetSmart was offering a drawing for a $50 store gift card which could only be used on certain limited items.  The occasion was celebrating small dogs.  The contest rules stated that you had to enter the drawing between 1-2pm that day and must be present for the drawing at 1pm in order to claim your prize.  When we arrived at the store a little after 1pm we realized that not many people were present.  It was a very hot day and driving in a hot car to a pet store was probably not on many people’s priority list.  In addition, having to wait around for a drawing to happen does not fit into everyone’s busy schedules. My husband and I were both allowed to enter (meaning it was a per person entry and not a per household).  We waited the hour, but unfortunately were not drawn as winners. But considering all the circumstances that would deter people entering this local contest, the odds were better than usual.

Today was National Ice Cream Day, and to celebrate McDonald’s was running a one-day promotion.  You were supposed to download the McDonald’s app, use it to claim your free ice cream cone offer, and then at the store you had the opportunity to win a year’s worth of ice cream plus a check for over $4000. The prize could be given at any freestanding McDonald’s nationwide, but you had to follow those steps to enter.  What was not clear from the rules was how a winner was determined.  Was it from scanning the app’s coupon? Was it something the employee had to do to enter you? I asked at the counter about that, and the employee had no idea that the sweepstakes was even happening, let alone how to make sure I was entered.  I have had other experiences with national chain employees not knowing about contest’s their company is running.  Clearly this is a training issue.  Either the company is not communicating with the managers, or the managers are not communicating with their employees.

Next on my list is a Camping World giveaway of an RV.  This contest started with the opportunity to register in advance of the prize day, and have a code e-mailed to you.  You then must bring the code to your nearest participating Camping World to check if your code opens the vault.  If it does, you are a winner!  Next Saturday is the big day for that, so I have it on my calendar to show up with my code to try!

My final advice is to make that extra effort to win local contests.  You might not win every single one, or maybe you won’t win any, but the odds are in your favor!

Lessons Learned from Winning International Travel

me before you sweepstakes poster

On July 7, 2016 I received an e-mail notifying me that I had won a trip for two to London.  I had one year to take the trip, and the time is finally here.  I will be in London from May 1 – May 7.  My trip includes airfare, hotel, breakfast, some tours, an English tea, and more.  It’s the middle of the night as I write this post because I am too excited to sleep.  I have been buying travel supplies and packing.  But I wanted to share with you some of the things I have learned through this process.

  1. Have your passport before you enter to win an international trip. Once I won and accepted, I had to fill out forms including my current passport information within the week.  Obviously, if you didn’t already have a passport this would not be enough time to obtain one.  That may mean you would have to forfeit the prize.  Luckily, I had prepared myself by applying for a passport at the beginning of that year “just in case” I won a trip!

 

  1. Read your passport. There is a lot of information about how to fill it out properly, about international travel and who to contact if your passport is stolen.  One piece of great advice is to make copies of the data page and keep them in different places just in case.

 

  1. When to expect your details and trip itinerary. Even though it has been almost a year since I won the trip, I did not receive my finalized travel and booking information until one month before the trip.  This may vary depending on the sponsor, but just know it may not be something you will receive immediately.

 

  1. Check your reservations for accuracy. When I received my plane reservation, I noticed that they had spelled my last name wrong.  Of course, I would not get too far if my identification card and plane reservation names didn’t match.  I simply contacted the travel planner and they quickly made the correction.

 

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for needed alterations of the schedule. The worst they can say is no.  In  my case, I wanted to stay a couple days longer in London to make sure I had enough time to see everything.  I asked if they would still cover the airfare, and the response was yes if it was equal to or lesser than the original airfare plan.  It ended up being to our benefit.  Since the tickets were cheaper by extending the trip, the sponsor ended up including more fun things for the days they covered.  I will simply have to pay for another hotel for those remaining two days.

 

I am looking forward to sharing the outcome of the trip with my readers when I return.  Perhaps I will learn a few more lessons, but hopefully it will just be great fun and memories to report.

Turning Down a Prize

thank you lemur

I’ve been meaning to write a sweepstakes post about this since the beginning of January.  What happens if you need to turn down a prize and why might you do so?  Well, January 9 was the first time I had to deal with these questions in all my years of sweeping.  At that time, I got an e-mail that I won an Oscar Red Carpet Experience in the PEOPLE’s Red Carpet Oscars Fan Experience 2017 Sweepstakes. At first I was excited at the prospect of getting to view the Oscars and see all the stars!  But then I realized certain expenses such as airfare were not covered.  I knew it would be difficult to come up with the extra money at that time, but also did not want to miss out on a once in a lifetime experience.  I am a member Sweeties Secret Sweeps which has a forum where fellow sweepers can ask each other questions and advice.  I posted my dilemma there, and got responses ranging from people that had won this prize in previous years and recommended going, to those that said the expense did not seem worth what you got unless you were a superfan.

In the end, I simply sat down and added up all the potential expenses and compared that to the value of the trip, and I decided that it was not something I should do at that time.  What should you do if you are in a similar situation?  While it’s an individual choice, an article on The Balance may help you make that decision.  The article talks about avoiding turning down prizes, reasons for turning down prizes, and how to turn down the prize.  You can check out this article here.

While I hope you will never have to face this dilemma, some of the ideas and advice in this post and that article should help you make an informed and satisfactory decision.

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!

Unusual Prizes

mystery prize.jpg

One question I’m asked frequently from non-sweepers is what could they win if they entered?  My answer: Just about anything you can think of!  Of course there are more common prizes like trips, cash, clothing, cars, jewelry, gift cards, etc.  There are more specific prizes like tickets to a particular game or event.  There are experiences, like race car driving lessons.  But it doesn’t stop there.

Prizes can be very specific and, if it’s not one you are particularly looking for, can even seem a bit strange.  How about an invasive medical procedure?  You can win that!  CBS Cares ran a Colonoscopy Sweepstakes.  Another procedure – right now a contest local to me is offering free removal of a “bad tattoo” to the winner of its photo contest.  Other very specific prizes I have seen are replica models or to scale figurines of various characters, a three foot tall piece of chocolate, “strange” foods in large quantities, and much more.

But in between the common and strange prizes, there are many other types of prizes to win.  If you can think of a prize, there just may be a sweepstakes or contest to win it.  Try searching for the name of the prize you want to win plus the word sweepstakes and see what comes up.  Also, don’t forget that many sweepstakes listings sites will offer a list of sweepstakes by prize type.

Have you won any prizes you would consider unusual?  Do you usually enter to win unusual prizes?  Let me know in the comments what your thoughts on this are, and if you have further suggestions for seeking out sweepstakes with unusual prizes.

Also, don’t forget to get your entries in to the giveaway in my January 31st post!

 

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.

Valentine’s Sweepstakes: Looking For Love in All the Free Places

Wouldn’t it be nice to give your sweetheart an epic Valentine’s Day gift?  What if you could do this but not put a dent in your wallet?  Even better, right?  Then be sure to enter the Valentine’s Day Sweepstakes now being offered by many companies, radio stations, and more!

This is an excellent time to check for local giveaways where you have a greater chance of winning.  Local businesses, restaurants, hotels, radio stations, and television stations may be offering the chance to win date nights, gift cards, flowers, candy, gift baskets, and Valentine-themed items.

Here is a national sweepstakes to get you started:

“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”

Charles M. Schulz

The Gimbal’s Fine Candies 2016 Valentine’s Day Sweepstakes winner will get a custom Valentine’s Day baking set packed with Gimbal’s signature Cherry Lover’s candies.  Plus anyone who enters will receive 10 percent off their next online purchase with Gimbal’s using code VDAY16.  ENTER HERE

Don’t delay in getting entries in for Valentine’s sweepstakes because many of these entry periods will end prior to Valentine’s Day so that you can have the prize in time to celebrate!

One final note is I’m going on vacation next week, and won’t be posting again until I return.  But stay tuned because I have something VERY special coming up for my readers in the next blog post and you won’t want to miss it!