If you get a call, email, or text that you’ve won a prize, you may initially feel excited. Who wouldn’t love to come into some extra cash or a valuable prize?
But before you act, pause, and make sure the notification you received is legitimate by following these steps below.
Protect Yourself from a Sweepstakes Scam
Fraudsters love to play off emotions, so they may pose as a company awarding you a prize to get your excitement up and your guard down. But ultimately, their goal is to get their hands on your cash, leaving you with no prize and less money in your wallet.
If you’re contacted about winning a prize, ask yourself these questions before you move to claim it:
- Did I enter this sweepstakes? Do you remember entering the sweepstakes you’re being told you won? If not, it’s unlikely that you won, since most legitimate sweepstakes have actions you need to take and rules you need to follow to be eligible to win.
- Is this company or individual legitimate? Have you heard of the company or person contacting you about the prize? Is it a trusted organization and is all the information correct (fraudsters love to pose as legitimate organizations, but may slightly alter their logo, website, or contact information)?
- Am I being asked to pay to claim my prize? Real sweepstakes are free and by chance. If you’re being asked to pay to increase your chances of winning or to satisfy a fee required to claim your prize, it’s not a legitimate sweepstakes.
Signs of a Sweepstakes Scam
Sweepstakes scams may vary slightly, but the same red flags are usually present. These include:
- An oddly familiar name. The company name may be oddly familiar, but something is off – whether it’s the logo or the name. If you’re not sure if the communication is legitimate, reach out to the company directly using a trusted phone number for the organization and ask them if the prize is authentic.
- A demand for financial account information. A legitimate sweepstakes will never require you to give sensitive information, like a checking account or credit card number, to claim your prize. If they ask for this information, end communications immediately.
- A sense of urgency. If you’re being told to act right now, don’t give in to the pressure to act immediately. Scammers hope that fear of losing out on your prize will cause you to make hasty decisions and let down your guard.
- Directions to send a portion of your winnings on to someone else. Sweepstakes scams can be a type of money mule scam. During these scams, victims are asked to receive and pass money along to someone else. In a sweepstakes scam, you may be paid more than your “prize” and asked to send the extra money to another individual.
What to Do if You’re a Victim of a Sweepstakes Scam
If you’ve been targeted by the this type of scam, there are several steps you should take. These include reporting it to your financial institution, especially if you provided account information to the scammer, working with local police, and taking steps to protect your identity from being further misused in the future.
Stay Informed About Common Scams
One of the best things you can do to protect yourself from any scam is to stay informed about fraudulent trends. For more information about common scams and how to keep your money and identity safe, visit our blog.