Sweepstakes -"You May Already Be A Winner!"
"What Will You Do With All the Money We're Preparing to Send You?"
The Attorney General provides Consumer Alerts to inform the public of unfair, misleading, or deceptive business practices, and to provide information and guidance on other issues of concern. Consumer Alerts are not legal advice, legal authority, or a binding legal opinion from the Department of Attorney General.
"YOU MAY ALREADY BE A WINNER!"
"WHAT WILL YOU DO WITH ALL THE MONEY
WE'RE PREPARING TO SEND YOU?"
If you have a mailbox, you have almost certainly received letters with bold headlines like these. These letters are promotions for prize sweepstakes - a kind of advertising that many people find irresistible...and very costly. It is important to keep in mind that companies that use sweepstakes are not in business to give away prizes. They are in business to sell merchandise. Sweepstakes are simply a way to attract your attention to their products or services.
If you decide you want to enter, do not allow enticing dollar signs to obstruct your common sense, remember our top ten sweepstakes tips.
Top 10 THINGS TO REMEMBER IF YOU ARE CONSIDERING Entering Sweepstakes
Buying will not help you win and don't be fooled by
differences in the handling of buyer/contributor and
Your chances of winning without a purchase or donation are
the same as the chances of someone who buys or donates. It is illegal to give
any advantage to a buyer or a donor in a sweepstakes.
You have NOT already won.
Sweepstakes are games of chance. The winner has not been
identified. If you enter, your entry will have the same chance to win as every
other entry. No one knows who the winner is until after the sweepstakes ends.
Responding to sweepstakes promotions - and especially
buying anything - will cause you to get more promotions.
There is an entire industry in buying and selling leads on
people known to participate in sweepstakes and other direct mail marketing and
telemarketing. These leads appear on "sucker" or "mooch" lists. The best way
to protect yourself from sweepstakes fraud is to keep your name off the lists.
To do this, you will need to limit or stop participating in sweepstakes and
contests, and you should not do business over the phone with unknown callers.
NEVER give a credit card number, bank account information,
Social Security number, or any other personal information to someone who
One popular way to use the "sucker" lists is to call someone
on the list and pretend to be a sweepstakes official. This person then says
that the company needs your social security number or your credit card number or
bank account number to award the prize. No legitimate contest ever asks for
personal information like this.
If you have to pay anything to collect a prize, you
A popular tactic that some disreputable operations use is to
contact you and tell you about a great prize that you've won - but then say that
you have to pay a small "handling fee," or "shipping fee" before your prize is
delivered. Remember, in a legitimate sweepstakes, a free prize means you pay
absolutely nothing, and there are no strings or fees attached.
Never pay "taxes" to a sweepstakes promoter.
Another popular tactic the con artists use is to require a
pre-payment of taxes. No legitimate company will ever ask you to pay taxes to
them to release your prize.
Don't be fooled by deceptive envelopes.
Deceptive marketers often use misleading envelopes that
include statements such as "REGISTERED DOCUMENT ENCLOSED," or refer to fines and
imprisonment for a person who tampers with the envelope. Some use fictitious
senders' names like "The Offices of records of Sweepstakes/Disbursements
Division," or suggest that the recipient has won a prize, such as "Confidential
CASH AWARD Documents Enclosed" and "OPEN AND RESPOND IMMEDIATELY! $3,000.00
cash award is ready to be sent!"
What a telemarketer must tell you.
If you get a call from a telemarketer that involves a sweepstakes or prize promotion, the caller is required to tell you:
- The odds of winning a prize.
- That no purchase or payment is required to enter or win a prize.
- How to participate without buying or paying anything.
The costs or conditions you will have to meet to get a prize.
Before you enter any sweepstakes, read the rules that the
promoter is required to include. Pay attention to the dates when entries are
accepted, the odds of winning, and any restrictions on entries. Take note of
anything that suggests that you have to buy to enter, or that doing so will
increase your odds of winning. Report any sweepstakes offers that have this
kind of language in them to the Attorney General.
You have the right to stop the mailings.
By law, all sweepstakes offers must include an address or
toll-free phone number where anyone, including a caregiver, may direct that
their name and address be taken off the sweepstakes firm's mailing list. If the
mailings do not stop after you request to have your name removed, file a
complaint with the Attorney General.
CONTACT THE ATTORNEY GENERAL WITH QUESTIONS OR COMPLAINTS
While there are legitimate, reputable firms that use sweepstakes promotions fairly and honestly, it is important to be able to tell them apart from the disreputable firms who prey on "sucker" lists. If you have any questions about sweepstakes promotions mailings or calls that you receive, you may contact the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division:
P.O. Box 30213
Lansing, MI 48909
Toll free: 877-765-8388
www.michigan.gov/ag (online complaint form)