As tempting as it is to believe that you’ve just received a check for $10,000,000 for doing nothing more than sitting on the couch watching reruns of Seinfeld in your underwear, it is important to learn how to avoid sweepstakes scams. These little cons come in many forms but, if you pay attention you can easily detect a phony. Use these guidelines to help you detect a fraudulent sweepstakes so you don’t quit your day job (in a way that makes reemployment absolutely impossible…telling your boss that she looks like Janet Reno on a bad day was probably ill advised!) in the midst of an ecstatic fit brought on by falsely believing you now have more money than Donald Trump:
- Read the fine print, read the fine print, read the fine print. There are dozens of rules and very specific protocol involved in even the most legitimate sweepstakes but, a scam may have some obvious indicators. For instance, if it says that you have to buy something or call a 900 number to claim your prize (dialing 900 numbers costs money), then it’s definitely not legit.
- NEVER give out your credit card number! Some scammers will automatically sign you up for some unneeded service or product under the guise of a sweepstakes. It’s common sense, but must be stated once more. Never give out any personal or financial information when signing up for a contest or to win a prize.
- Verify that the prize is what it appears to be. In other words, make sure that the $10,000 prize is actually $10,000 and not $10,000 given out in coupons for dog food. Unless, of course, you happen to have 37 hungry dogs.
- Checks for no reason are fake. If you receive an actual, physical check in the mail you can be 99% sure that it’s a fraud. Just to be safe (it would suck pretty bad to throw away five grand because you didn’t check it out!) here are some tell-tale signs of phony checks:
- The envelope it comes in has no return address.
- The bank name is correct, but the address is not.
- The paper and ink quality are subpar.
If all else fails, check the company out with the BBB. If you’ve followed the above tips and you still aren’t sure, verify the company with the Better Business Bureau. If they don’t have a listing for the company or it has a lot of complaints by previous unfortunate victims (who clearly didn’t read this article), steer clear.
Scams happen to good folks every day but, you don’t have to one of them. While it’s okay to gaze at that fake check for millions of dollars and fantasize about your new life on a private island with Megan Fox, who simply hates wearing clothes (they’re so INHIBITING!), take a deep breath and get back to real life. After all, your dreams of riches may become a reality someday but, it might take a little more than lounging on the couch to get the ball rolling.