Consumer Publications List
Soon after a
Silver Spring woman sent in a sweepstakes entry, she began to receive many other
sweepstakes mailings that implied she was close to being a grand prize winner.
Thinking she could increase her odds of winning, she began buying books,
magazines and other products through these sweepstakes. She spent $1,500 but
never won anything.
Marylanders were taken in by a mailing that promised they had won "up to $15,000
in cash." They called its "900" number and were told they had won $1. They were
charged $25 to $40 per call.
Before you respond
to a sweepstakes mailing or telephone call that says you are their "guaranteed
winner," ask: What's in it for them?
The truth is,
sweepstakes are not trying to give you money-they're trying to get your money.
The only aim of their mailings and telephone calls is to get people to order
products or, in the case of fraudulent prize promotions, pay a "processing fee"
or make a call to a "900" or other toll number.
Too often people
buy products they don't need or pay excessive fees to sweepstakes. Some people
even lose their life savings because they become addicted to entering
sweepstakes, ordering merchandise in the mistaken belief that it will increase
their chances of winning. They can't stop because they don't want to lose what
they've "invested." They continue to receive mailings and phone calls that
suggest they are close to winning.
In reality, their
chances of winning a legitimate sweepstakes are very small, and there are many
fraudulent sweepstakes that either don't award any prizes or award prizes that
turn out to be almost worthless.
promoters know that once they've convinced consumers that a big prize is coming
their way, it's easier to get money from them. Even though by law no purchase
can be required to enter or win, sweepstakes depend on the fact that people
think they have a better chance of winning if they order a magazine or other
product. If asked to pay a delivery fee or pre-pay taxes on their winnings,
people think it is a small price to pay since they will be getting a big prize.
Only they usually don't get the prize.
Here's how to get
the real scoop on a sweepstakes mailing:
small print. "You're a guaranteed $10,000 winner!" "This is official
notification that you have won a new car!" Phrases like these in big, bold type
are often surrounded by smaller type that says something like "...if you have
and return the matching winning number." Most likely you are not the winner.
Look at the
postage. "Bulk rate" or "presorted first class" means that the letter
has gone to thousands of people-you are not really a specially selected
the odds of winning. A sweepstakes must disclose these to you. Read the
fine print at the bottom of the page or on the back. For example, if you see
that "Awards and Odds are: $15,000 (1:4,000,000)," your odds of winning are one
in four million.
"No purchase is necessary." You do not have to buy anything to enter a
sweepstakes. By law, you can enter and have an equal chance of winning without
If you are being
deluged with sweepstakes offers, here's how to reduce the number you receive.
Don't enter any sweepstakes or buy anything through a sweepstakes - throw the
mailings away. Each time a telemarketer calls, tell them you want to be put on
their "do not call" list. Also, contact the Direct Marketing Association to be
placed on their mail preference service to request that your name be taken off
sweepstakes marketing and advertising mailing lists:
AssociationAttn: Sweepstakes1111 19th Street N.W., Suite
1100Washington, DC 20036-3603
Maryland Attorney General's Consumer Protection
DivisionConsumer hotline: (410) 528-8662 or 1 (888) 743-0023 toll-free
200 St. Paul Place, Baltimore, MD 21202
410-576-6300 / 1-888-743-0023 toll-free / TDD: 410-576-6372