BBB Says Many Sweepstakes Are Scams, But Not All BBB Helped Winner Claim Legitimate Sweepstakes Prize

July 31, 2013

DAYTON, OHIO, July 8, 2013 - Scams hit the Miami Valley daily, including sweepstakes scams. Your Better Business Bureau gets contacted regularly by people who have received notifications claiming they have won prize money in sweepstakes.

Your BBB warns consumers to be wary of most sweepstakes. Following this advice, one consumer from Alabama learned she actually was a sweepstakes winner when she turned to your BBB for help. The consumer received a call from Michigan Bulb, which is affiliated with Spring Hill Nursery in Tipp City, claiming she had won a sweepstakes. The caller claimed all she had to do to receive her prize was to fill out a W-9 form for tax purposes. Your BBB team checked it out and discovered the consumer truly was a winner.

Unfortunately, happy endings like this aren’t usually the case. According to the Federal Trade Commission, Americans lose billions each year to phony sweepstakes and prize promotion schemes.

Your BBB offers tips on how to protect yourself from sweepstakes scams.

  • Remember, you can only win a sweepstakes you enter. If you have entered a sweepstakes, keep track of who you’re entering with.
  • Research the site for official rules. These rules will explain in detail the closing date, approximate retail value of the prize and eligibility requirements.
  • Keep in mind when registering for a sweepstakes the typical form will ask for your name, e-mail address, phone number and home address.
  • Read the fine print on any sweepstakes offer or entry form you receive.
  • Don’t be deceived by seals, official-sounding names or terms that imply affiliation with or endorsement by a government entity, here or abroad.
  • Resist high-pressure sales tactics and insist on time to think and discuss offers with trusted friends, family members or financial advisors.
  • Be wary if the sweepstakes is difficult to read because of grammatical errors and misspellings or originates from foreign countries.
  • Think twice if you’re asked to wire funds to an account or individual you don’t know. Never send money to receive winnings.
  • Don’t provide bank account information for sweepstakes promoters to directly withdraw fees. Chances are scammers will empty your accounts.
  • Understand sweepstakes shouldn’t require you to buy something. It’s prohibited by U.S. law.

The bottom line is legitimate sweepstakes companies don’t require you to pay taxes, customs fees, shipping or handling, or any other fee before awarding your winnings. (However, you may be asked to complete a tax form if the prize amount is more than $600. Check with the IRS on the proper forms to fill out.) Prizes are free. If you receive notification you’re a prize winner in a sweepstakes, check it out with your BBB by visiting or calling (937) 222-5825 or (800) 776-5301.

About Your BBB Serving Dayton and the Miami Valley For 100 years, your Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2011, people turned to your BBB more than 100 million times for Business Reviews on more than 4 million companies and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at Today, there are 114 local, independent BBBs across the United States and Canada. To further promote trust, your BBB also offers complaint and dispute resolution support for consumers and businesses when there is difference in viewpoints.