How to Spot a Scam

There are many sweepstakes and instant win games out there! I’ve won a lot of prizes and you can, too!

Unfortunately, there are also people looking to scam others. I have put together some warning signs to look out for so you don’t get scammed. 

You received an e-mail stating that you won a prize! GREAT!  But…how do you know if that E-mail is really legit? 


Instant win games are just that. You instantly know if you are a winner. You play some kind of game or enter a code and it tells you if you won or not right then and there. Sometimes you will also get sent an E-mail stating that you won (but you already knew that).

Other times, they will just ship the prize to you. 


With sweepstakes, they may call or send you an E-mail to notify you of a win. So how do you know if that E-mail is real? 

Here are some signs it may be a scam:

  1. Spelling Errors– If there are a lot of spelling mistakes or grammatical errors, it’s a red flag that it is probably a scam.  A lot of scams originate outside of the U.S. so English is their 2nd language. A legit company may have one typo (we are all human), but there won’t be errors all over the place.
  2. They Want Money- Legit sweepstakes will NEVER ask you to pay money or fees to enter or to claim your prize. If the prize value is $600 or more, it DOES need to be reported to the IRS. You DO need to pay taxes on it, but you do NOT pay taxes to whoever is holding the sweepstakes. If they say you need to pay them x amount of money in taxes or fees before you get your prize, it’s a scam. On a $600 or more win, you will fill out an affidavit to pay the IRS directly. NEVER give money to anyone in order to get a prize. EVER!
  3.  You Don’t Remember Entering- If you don’t remember entering that contest, it could be because you didn’t. And you can’t win if you didn’t enter. Therefore…SCAM! However, maybe you enter a lot of sweepstakes and think that you could have really entered. If you aren’t sure, look at the information they have in the e-mail, such as the company name, phone number, and address. Google it to see if it is legit before calling or clicking on any links. 
  4. BULK E-mails- If there are many recipients (not just you) then it could be a scam. Most legit companies will not send out bulk e-mails to notify you of a win. 
  5. It Was Sent From a Free E-mail Account- It does not necessarily mean that it is a scam if it came from a yahoo, gmail, or hotmail e-mail address. Some small companies use these e-mails to legitimately notify winners. However, if it says it is from a large company, such as Walmart, then it’s a scam. A large company like that would not be using a yahoo account. Don’t be fooled because they may have the colors and Walmart logo (for example) in the e-mail. It’s easy for scammers to copy and paste.  
  6. HURRY HURRY- They may pressure you to act quickly. This is because they don’t want you to have time to investigate and find out they are not legit. Now, there ARE plenty of legit reasons to act quickly. For example, a radio station says you won concert tickets for this weekend and need a response. Another example is that Amazon wins need to be claimed within 48 hours. Even if you have only one day, you still have time to investigate. Be wary of the ones that say you must act NOW.   
  7. They Don’t Know Your Name- If the e-mail is addressed “To Sir” or “To Winner” then it is a warning sign. If you entered a contest, they would know your name and other information you put on the entry form. 
  8. They Want Your Credit Card Information- Again, you will never have to pay to receive a prize. Therefore, they do NOT need your credit card information.  NEVER give anyone claiming you won a prize your credit card information!
  9. You Won the Lottery- This is a scam because the lottery will never contact you to tell you that you won. This goes for foreign lotteries, too. If you do play the lottery, YOU need to look up the winning numbers and go claim any wins on your own.
  10. They Mail You a Check- Sometimes you get notification via snail mail. If they mail you a check and ask you to deposit it, it’s a scam! It will bounce and you will be out the money. I get those $10,000 checks in the mail all of the time. They are FAKE.  As I mentioned earlier, $600 or more requires the IRS to be notified. You wouldn’t just get the check.

Still not sure? Contact the sweepstakes sponsor directly. Don’t click the links in the E-mail.  They may direct you to a fake website. Instead, type in the sponsor’s webpage address yourself. Contact them from that webpage to see if you have really won a prize.

Now, don’t be afraid to enter sweepstakes. You have the chance to win some amazing prizes! Bookmark this page and refer to it if you are unsure of any calls or E-mails you receive.