American sweepstakes network scam

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You get a call, email, or letter saying you won a sweepstakes, lottery, or prize — like an iPad, a new car, or something else. But you can tell it’s a scam because of what they do next: they ask you to pay money or give them your account information to get the prize. If you pay, you’ll lose your money and find out there is no prize.

3 Signs of a Prize Scam

Who doesn’t dream of winning a lot of money or a big prize? That’s why scammers still use the promise of a prize to get your money or personal information. The good news is that there are ways to tell you’re dealing with a scam.

Here are three signs of a prize scam:

  1. You have to pay to get your prize. But real prizes are free. So if someone tells you to pay a fee for "taxes," "shipping and handling charges," or “processing fees” to get your prize, you’re dealing with a scammer. And if they ask you to pay by wiring money, sending cash, or paying with gift cards or cryptocurrency to get your prize, don’t do it. Scammers use these payments because it’s hard to track who the money went to. And it’s almost impossible to get your money back.
  2. They say paying increases your odds of winning. But real sweepstakes are free and winning is by chance. It’s illegal for someone to ask you to pay to increase your odds of winning. Only a scammer will do that.
  3. You have to give your financial information. There’s absolutely no reason to ever give your bank account or credit card number to claim any prize or sweepstakes. If they ask for this information, don’t give it. It’s a scam.

How Scammers Try To Trick You

Scammers will say anything to get your money. Here are ways they try to trick you into thinking you really won a prize.

  • Scammers say they’re from the government when they’re not. Scammers try to look official. They want you to think you’ve won a government-supervised lottery or sweepstakes. They make up fake names like the “National Sweepstakes Bureau,” or pretend they’re from a real agency like the Federal Trade Commission. The truth is, the government won’t call you to demand money so you can collect a prize.
  • Scammers use names of organizations you might recognize. Scammers might pretend to be from well-known companies that run real sweepstakes. But no real sweepstakes company will contact you to ask for money so you can claim a prize. If you’re unsure, contact the real company directly to find out the truth. And look up the real company’s contact information yourself. Don’t rely on the person who reached out to you to provide you with the real contact information.
  • Scammers send you a message (via text, email, or social media) to get your personal information. You might be told that you won a gift card or a discount code to a local store. Or the message may say you won something expensive, like an iPad or a new car from your local dealership. Scammers hope you’ll respond with your personal information or click on links that can take your personal information or download malware onto your device. Don’t respond.
  • Scammers make it seem like you’re the only person who won a prize. But the same text, email, or letter went to lots of people. If your message came by mail, check the postmark on the envelope or postcard. If your “notice” was mailed by bulk rate, it means many other people got the same notice, too. For other types of messages, check online to see if others are reporting that they got the same message.
  • Scammers say you’ve won a foreign lottery, or that you can buy tickets for one. Messages about a foreign lottery are almost certainly from a scammer — and it’s a bad idea to respond. First, it's illegal for U.S. citizens to play a foreign lottery, so don’t trust someone who asks you to break the law. Second, if you buy a foreign lottery ticket, expect many more offers for fake lotteries or scammy investment “opportunities.” Finally, there are no secret systems for winning foreign lotteries, so don’t believe someone who tells you they can help you win.
  • Scammers pressure you to act now to get a prize. Scammers want you to hurry up and pay or give them information. They tell you it’s a limited time offer or you have to “act now” to claim your prize. They don’t want you to have time to evaluate what’s really happening. Don’t be rushed — especially if they want you to do something to get your prize.
  • Scammers send you a check and ask you to send some of the money back. This is a fake check scam. If you deposit the check, it can take the bank weeks to figure out that it’s fake. In the meantime, the bank has to make the funds available, so it can look like the money is in your account. But once the bank finds out the check is fake, they’ll want you to pay back the funds. Read How to Spot, Avoid, and Report Fake Check Scams for more tips.

If you’re not sure about a contest or the company sending you a prize notification, search online to see if you find anything about them. Type the name with terms like “review,” “complaint,” or “scam.”

What To Know About Real Contests and Prizes

Plenty of contests are run by reputable marketers and non-profit organizations. But there are some things to know before you drop in a quick entry or follow instructions to claim a prize.

  • Real sweepstakes are free and by chance. It’s illegal to ask you to pay or buy something to enter, or to increase your odds of winning.
  • Contest promoters might sell your information to advertisers. If you sign up for a contest or a drawing, you’re likely to get more promotional mail, telemarketing calls, or spam.
  • Contest promoters have to tell you certain things. If they call you, the law says they have to tell you that entering is free, what the prizes are and their value, the odds of winning, and how you’d redeem a prize.
  • Sweepstakes mailings must say you don’t have to pay to participate. They also can’t claim you're a winner unless you've actually won a prize. And if they include a fake check in their mailing, it has to clearly say that it’s non-negotiable and has no cash value.

A special note about skills contests. A skills contest — where you do things like solve problems or answer questions correctly to earn prizes— can ask you to pay to play. But you might end up paying repeatedly, with each round getting more difficult and expensive, before you realize it’s impossible to win or just a scam. Skills contests can leave contestants with nothing to show for their money and effort.

What To Do if You Paid a Scammer

Scammers often ask you to pay in ways that make it tough to get your money back. No matter how you paid a scammer, the sooner you act, the better. Learn more about how to get your money back.

Report Prize Winnings and Lottery Scams

If you think you’ve been targeted by a prize scam:


Consumer & Fraud Alert

American Sweepstakes Company is a nationally recognized third-party administrator of sweepstakes and contests for companies and agencies.

Legitimate sweepstakes and promotions never ask winners to pay anything before receiving a prize, and taxes are always paid directly to the IRS after receipt of winnings. If you’ve been asked to send money and/or pay taxes in order to claim a prize, YOU ARE BEING SCAMMED.

Criminals illegally use our name and logo to deceive consumers, and there are unfortunately thousands of victims of this kind of fraud every year. If you’ve been notified that you’re a winner of such a promotion, IT IS A SCAM. DO NOT SEND MONEY.

Report the incident to your attorney general or the FTC.

Alert IconIf you are the victim of such a scam, we unfortunately cannot assist you in any way. Please report the incident to your local police, your state’s Attorney General, or the Federal Trade Commission at or

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12 Warning Signs of Sweepstakes Scams

Sweepstakes Scams Demand Payment to Receive a Prize

Does your notification ask you to pay money to receive your prize? If so, you're almost certainly dealing with a scam. Legitimate sweepstakes never ask you to pay fees to participate or to receive a prize.

Scammers might say that before they can release your prize, you have to pay for:

  • Sweepstakes taxes
  • Customs fees
  • Handling charges or shipping fees
  • Service fees
  • Withholding
  • Any other charges

However, you never have to pay upfront to receive a legitimate prize. Sweepstakes taxes are paid directly to the IRS along with your regular tax return.

Except for rare exceptions, such as port fees for a cruise prize or a nominal amount for hotel taxes, anyone who asks you to pay taxes on prizes directly to them is running a scam.

Sweepstakes Scams Use Free E-mail Accounts

If you receive a win notification by email, check the email address that sent the notification. If it's from a free email address, like Gmail or Yahoo Mail, take care — that could be a warning sign of a scam.

Some small companies legitimately notify winners from a free email address. But if you receive a win notice claiming to be from a big company like Publishers Clearing House or Microsoft, but the email arrived from a free account, you can be sure that you're dealing with a sweepstakes scam.

Also, be wary of email addresses that look close to, but not the same as, those from official companies. Like "" might look OK until you notice that the official company has an "s" after "publisher".

Sometimes scam artists will spoof the email address so that it looks like it's coming from a legitimate company, even when it's not. Stay alert for phishing emails.

Sweepstakes Scams Tell You You've Won Contests You Didn't Enter

The only sweepstakes you can win are ones you've entered. If you receive a win notification from a giveaway that you don't remember entering, it's a red flag. 

It's possible you did enter and then forgot about it, of you used an easily-overlooked method like scanning your grocery store club card. But before you respond, take the time to do some additional research.

If you organize your sweepstakes entries with folders, you can easily check to make sure that you actually entered the giveaway.

Another way of verifying that your prize win is not a scam is to look up the telephone number for the sweepstake sponsor, then call and verify your winnings. However, don't use a telephone number given in your suspicious win notification unless you can verify that it is legitimate from another source, like a phone book.

Sweepstakes Scams Send You Large Checks with Your Notifications

If your win notification comes with a check as your prize, it's a sure sign that you've won, right? Wrong. If the check is worth more than $600, it's a sure sign that you're being scammed.

To fool people into thinking that sweepstakes scams are legitimate, con artists send counterfeit checks along with their phony win notifications. This is called a fake check scam.

This is dangerous in more ways than one: Not only do you not get the money, but cashing fraudulent checks is a crime. If you deposit that check, you could be liable for fines and could even have your bank account closed. You'll also lose any money you send to the scammers.

For more information, see Check Scams: What They Are, and How to Avoid Them.

Remember, legitimate sweepstakes require affidavits before sending out prizes worth over $600.

Sweepstakes Scams Instruct You to Wire Money

Does your win notification include instructions to wire cash to the sponsor? If so, run. Even in the few legitimate cases where you have to pay money to a sponsor, you wouldn't need to use a wire service.

Criminals use services like Western Union to receive illicit funds because it is nearly impossible to trace who received the money. Western Union transfers are handled like cash, meaning that the con artists can simply pick it up and disappear. You can say goodbye to any money you sent. 

A new twist on this sweepstakes scam signal: con artists are now asking their victims to buy Green Dot Money Pack cards from retailers like Walmart. These cards let you transfer money by simply giving the recipient the numbers printed on the card. Once you've done that, there's little to no chance of getting your money back.

Sweepstakes Scams Pressure You to Act in a Hurry

Does your win notification pressure you to respond immediately or lose your chance to claim your prize? If so, proceed carefully.

Sweepstakes scammers have a good reason for wanting you to act quickly: They want to ensure that they receive their money before their check bounces or you read an article like this one and realize that you are being defrauded.

In some legitimate cases, a sponsor might need a quick answer. For example, if the prize includes tickets ​for a concert that weekend, they might need you to claim the prize right away or the tickets won't be any good.

But you should always have at least a few hours to investigate the notification. And if there's no good reason for a rush to accept a prize, then it's probably a sweepstakes scam.

Sweepstakes Scams Ask for Bank or Credit Cards to Receive Your Prize

Do you have to verify your bank account number or credit card number to get your prize? This is a clear sign of a sweepstakes scam.

Legitimate sweepstakes don't send prizes by direct deposit, nor do they need to withdraw money from your bank or verify information using your credit card number. The only sensitive information that a legitimate sweepstakes sponsor needs to process your win is your social security number. 

Asking for a bank account or credit card number is a huge red flag that you are dealing with a sweepstakes scam, and you should never hand over this information.

The "Win" is From a Lottery (Especially a Foreign Lottery)

Did you receive a notification that you have won a prize in a lottery? Perhaps the Microsoft Lottery, the Heineken Lottery, or Euromillions? If so, don't get too excited, this is almost certainly a scam.

It's impossible to win a lottery without buying a ticket. Even if you did buy tickets, the lottery wouldn't call or email you. You'd have to find the winning numbers in a newspaper, the internet, or on TV and compare them to your ticket. 

Win notices from foreign lotteries are even more suspicious. Not only do foreign lotteries have the same restriction as domestic lotteries, but it is also illegal to sell tickets for foreign lotteries across international borders.

Therefore, unless you were actually in a foreign country and bought a lottery ticket, foreign lottery notifications are frauds.

Sweepstakes Scams Don't Know Your Name

Does your win notification address you by a generic title like "Dear Winner" or "Dear Sir"? If so, this is a strong warning sign.

Many sweepstakes scams send thousands upon thousands of fake mails or emails to every address they can get their hands on, often without knowing any personal information about the people they're contacting.

On the other hand, legitimate sweepstakes already have your entry information from the entry form. Most of the time, this includes your name, and they'd use that name when they contact you.

Sweepstakes Scams Pose As Government Organizations

To appear more legitimate, some sweepstakes scams pretend to come from government organizations such as the FTC or the "National Sweepstakes Board" (which doesn't actually exist).

Real sweepstakes sponsors send their win notifications directly to the winners. Government organizations are not involved in awarding sweepstakes prizes, nor do federal marshals hand out the prizes.

If you're not dealing directly with a company sponsoring or administrating the giveaway, you are being scammed.

Sweepstakes Scam Notifications Arrive by Bulk Mail

Take a look at the envelope that contained your win notification. Does it have first-class postage? If not, that's a bad sign.

When legitimate sweepstakes sponsors send out win notifications, they use first class postage or services such as FedEx or UPS to deliver them.

Sweepstakes scam artists, on the other hand, want to target the most people at the least cost in order to keep their profits high. They lower their costs by using bulk mail for their mailings. 

Any win notification that arrives by bulk mail should be treated with a great deal of suspicion.

Sweepstakes Scams Contain Typos

Scan your win notification. Do you notice bad grammar, missing words, or spelling mistakes? These are red flags for a scam.

Any company can make a minor mistake when typing out a win notification. However, multiple or glaring errors are a bad sign.

Many sweepstakes scams originate outside of the United States and Canada, and the people who write the scam letters are often not proficient in English.

Be very cautious of any win notices that have a lot of errors, use strange or stilted language, and otherwise sound "off."

Don't Miss Out on Legitimate Wins, Though!

Although it's imperative to know and recognize the warning signs that you're being scammed, you also don't want to miss out on any real wins. There are some common aspects of claiming prizes that might seem unusual but are actually legitimate, or even expected. Read about some ​Unsettling Things that Aren't Signs of Scams for more information.


The initial contact in a sweepstakes scam is often a call, an email, a social media notification or a piece of direct mail offering congratulations for winning some big contest. But there’s a catch: You’ll be asked to pay a fee, taxes or customs duties to claim your prize. The scammers may request bank account information, urge you to send money via a wire transfer, or suggest you purchase gift cards and give them the card numbers. 

Regardless of the method, once scammers ensnare someone they'll keep coming back, calling victims for months or even years, promising the big prize is only one payment away. If you stop paying or cut off contact, they may threaten to harm you or a loved one or to report you to authorities, according to the U.S. Embassy in Jamaica, the country of origin for many lottery cons. (Be suspicious of any unexpected call from a number starting with 876, the area code for Jamaica.)

Older people are popular targets: According to an August 2020 Better Business Bureau study, 80 percent of the money lost to sweepstakes scammers comes from people over age 65. 

Warning Signs

  • You get a call or an online solicitation claiming you were automatically entered in a sweepstakes you’ve never heard of before.
  • You're told you need to make an upfront payment to collect the prize.
  • Someone calls you and says they have a winning state lottery ticket but needs help paying a fee to collect on it. According to the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries, “Once a ticket is bought, no money is EVER required to claim a prize.”

Scam network american sweepstakes

About Us

At The American Sweepstakes Network we’ve been administering and implementing sweepstakes, contests and game promotions for some of the biggest marketers in America for over 30 years. We are a promotional marketing company that services brands, organizations and their agencies. Our flawless administration and execution services provide our clients with solutions where everyone wins.

This is one business in which experience counts! American Sweepstakes has the experience you’ve been looking for to be assured that your promotion not only brings the results you desire, but provides a partnership experience that creates a smooth and easy process from beginning to end. We’re dedicated to providing superior customer service, flexibility in our processes to meet various client needs, first-rate creativity and of course attention to detail and follow-through.


Sweepstakes Legal ServicesThe American Sweepstakes Network is fully up-to-date on all sweepstakes legal issues and regulations pertaining to sweepstakes laws on both a national and international level. We have written sweepstakes rules for many types of promotional marketing programs and work with sweepstakes legal professionals as needed.

Social Media MarketingCombining an interactive promotion as a sweepstakes, contest, game or giveaway with social media marketing is what we define as a Social Sweeps promotion, a winning combination for all. What better way to get your brand name in front of customers and engage them in a fun, interactive manner. We have social media marketing specialists on staff that can effectively utilize the many different social media platforms and networks to help generate awareness and buzz on your next promotion.

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How to tell real sweepstakes from fake

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