Entering prize promotions and sweepstakes can be fun, exciting and enjoyable. But some offers sound too good to be true. You know the rule, if it sounds too good to be true – it just might.
Do you have questions about a prize promotion or sweepstakes mailing that you’ve received? Not sure if it’s legitimate? Maybe the offer says you have won but only need to pay a small fee to get your prize, or appears to have a government “seal” but really isn’t from the government. This fact sheet provides you with additional information and resources on how to determine if an offer or promotion is legitimate and where you can go to report illegitimate practices.
The Deceptive Mail Prevention and Enforcement Act governs sweepstakes promotional mailings. This federal law requires mailings to clearly state that no purchase is necessary to enter a contest and that a purchase does not improve your chances of winning, among other rules and requirements. Therefore, any legitimate organization running a lottery or prize promotion would never ask consumers to submit a payment to receive their prize or award. Companies are also not permitted to send promotional mailings that appear to be coming from the government such as displaying a government logo or seal.
There is an uptick in scammers posing as a familiar Brand or government agency. These imposters try to get money from unsuspecting consumers by running illegal sweepstakes and prize promotions and trading on the good reputation of known names (i.e., Publishers Clearing House, Reader’s Digest, American Express, Oprah, Ellen, IRS, or Federal Trade Commission to name just a few). Scammers will call, mail, email or post a fake profile on Facebook asking money from consumers to “win” their grand prize.
Many unethical companies prey and target the elderly with these fraudulent and deceptive sweepstakes and prize promotions. The US Postal Inspection Service has a good fact sheet on this issue for people of all ages,
Please view its side-bar for special tips and resources.
You may register your name and address on the Data & Marketing Association’s mail removal service. It is important to note though that if you are receiving fraudulent offers via postal mail then these are not legitimate, responsible marketers and therefore would not subscribe to our DMAChoice suppression file. The DMAChoice is a service we provide to consumers to assist you in managing your marketing preferences. Only our members – which are responsible and legitimate marketers and must follow a certain standard of ethical guidelines – are required to subscribe to this service. Our members use this file to suppress before sending promotional mail to prospective customers.
DMAChoice also provides a name removal service for caregivers. You can register family members and individuals in your care with our name removal service.
Additionally, you can register your telephone number with the National Do Not Call list. If the company violates your do not call request then you can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission which is the enforcement arm of the National Do Not Call list.
If you do find yourself a victim of a mail fraud scheme (i.e., you received a fraudulent offer through the US mail) then you should report the company to the US Postal Inspection Service: ;
DMA requires its members to follow the DMA Guidelines on Ethical Business Practice. We have highlighted the following Articles which specifically apply to sweepstakes and contest promotions:
Photographs, illustrations, artwork, and the situations they represent should be accurate portrayals of the prizes listed in the promotion.