Winning a legitimate sweepstakes can be a truly life-changing experience. Just look at what happened to Army Sgt. Kakala Loketi, who won the Army and Air Force Exchange Service’s “Your Holiday Bill Is On Us” sweepstakes. Her prize? She got to have her $8,200 in credit card debt paid off, $3,000 of which was racked up helping fellow soldiers buy food, gas, and items like diapers and clothes for their families. Without the heavy debt, Sgt. Loketi was able to get ready for a permanent station change.
However, the operative word there is “legitimate.”
Sweepstakes, which are also known as giveaways or games of chance, require no money to enter, and are relatively simple to participate in. Most sweepstakes only require entrants to fill out a quick form, follow a social media page, or refer a friend, and winners are chosen at random.
“Although the rules of running a sweepstakes vary, depending upon how the sweepstakes is structured, how people enter, etc., these are the basics: If there is a purchase or extensive entry effort involved, there must be a ‘free’ method to obtain entry without having to make a purchase or put forth too much effort,” explained Jennifer Valentino, marketing and account manager for National Sweepstakes Company, LLC. “Prizes must be awarded at random, and, if the total value of all prizes you are awarding exceeds $5,000, you must bond and register with the applicable states. Certain states, industries, and social media sites have additional requirements that must be adhered to, depending upon the sweepstakes is organized.”
Some areas, though, are having problems with sweepstakes. Like many other regions, North Carolina, for example, lacks clear-cut state laws.
“Honestly, I’d like to do away with them,” said Dale Watson, the police chief of Mount Airy, North Carolina. “It costs our citizens who become addicted.”
The easiest way to tell a scam from a genuine sweepstakes, says About.com sweepstakes expert Sandra Grauschopf, is to look at what you have to do to enter. If it asks you for money as the sole method of entry, it’s a scam.
“You don’t have to do anything for the sponsor other than receive the prize,” said Grauschopf.
Other ways to avoid getting scammed are to avoid clicking links in spammy emails, stick with businesses you’re already familiar with, read privacy policies, check for fraud complaints, and keep private info private.
Just because there are scams out there, though, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take a chance and enter a sweepstakes. Winning one could potential change your life, as it did for Sgt. Loketi.
Winning the sweepstakes for her was “a blessing to me and my family … it came at the right time.”