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In this article, we debunk myths, clarify procedures, and navigate the realm of contest notifications and responses.


Have you ever been notified that you won a contest, only to dismiss it as a scam or ignore it altogether? You’re not alone. In a world rife with online scams and constant data privacy concerns, it’s natural for skepticism to arise when unexpected notifications of winning pop up. However, understanding the intricacies of legitimate contest notifications and their underlying processes can shed light on why many recipients hesitate to respond.

ESG has been in business as a sweepstakes administration company for over twenty-five years. Throughout these years, we have heard all of the reservations that potential winners have once they are notified they might be a winner, but this is the bottom line: people win sweepstakes! Below are some of the responses from people, many of whom go on to become actual winners, that we hear on a regular basis:

1. Most of These Contests Are Scams

Good on you. Being aware of potential scams out there is vital. Nobody wants to be duped. But if you have entered a sweepstakes, it will behoove you to realize that the winner has to be contacted in some manner; the prize doesn’t just show up at your doorstep. In every one of our notification efforts, we state the name of the sweepstakes and even provide the official rules for reference. If you have no recollection of entering and after reading the official rules you can see entry was not automatic, based on an action on your part, then you might think twice before agreeing to complete any documentation that you are asked to fill out. Take a good look at the documents you receive, and remember that you will never be asked to send money or provide a bank account number as a stipulation of winning a prize in a legitimate sweepstakes.

2. No One Wins These Promotions and Contests

Yes, people do win. Legitimate sweepstakes run every day, and real people win them. In fact, part of why the sweepstakes industry is so highly regulated is to protect consumers like you. This is why official rules should always accompany a sweepstakes; they state what is required to enter, when the drawing happens, how the winners are notified, and what prizes will be awarded. Full disclosure of all pertinent details helps make the process transparent. Failing to run a promotion legally runs a high risk of negative exposure if prizes go unawarded or worse – legal fines can ensue.

3. I Don’t Want to Give Up My Email Address

We hear you on this one. An email notification can give you serious pause; that is if you take the time to consider the email before deleting it. The good news is that companies are required to have a privacy policy and to abide by it. That means a sponsor needs to have a clear explanation of what they can and can’t do with your information once it is collected. Some privacy policies even go so far as to explain how information collected from sweepstakes participation will be used (i.e. only to notify winners). Companies take your privacy seriously, and they also don’t want to violate the CAN-SPAM ACT which could open them up to severe penalties and fines. This is why you will often see checkboxes on an entry form requesting permission to reach back out to you with newsletters and updates. The sponsor of a sweepstakes is not permitted to send you information just because you shared your contact information with them for the chance to win something. On the off chance this happens, you should have the opportunity to opt-out of future email communication because every business-related email must permit this in addition to identifying the name of the sponsor and their mailing address.

4. I Don’t Answer Blocked Calls

Uhm, we don’t answer blocked calls either. Except when we’ve entered a sweepstakes. There’s a good reason a sweepstakes administration company blocks their number: to protect the sponsor. How so? Well, if three phone call attempts are made to reach a potential winner but nobody answers, the sponsor needs to be able to move onto an alternate. The cleanest way to do this is to call from a blocked number. Imagine the what could happen if you called back a number because you were curious about who was calling you and learned the number belonged to a sweepstakes administration company. You’d want to know what prize you won! Or rather, what prize you could have won; it’s a terrible let-down to learn the prize was awarded to someone else. Sometimes sweepstakes winners are notified by phone, but other times, the sponsor uses email or a direct message to notify them. Keep your eyes and ears open when the notification time comes around for a sweepstakes that you’ve entered. You can find this information in the official rules – and if you want to go above and beyond, try making a calendar reminder about it so you can be on high alert.

5. I Need to Protect My Social Security Number

We don’t blame you on this one. But here is the thing: Uncle Sam taxes you on any prize value over $600. It’s up to the sponsor of the sweepstakes to either issue the 1099- MISC form or hire a sweepstakes administration company to issue it on their behalf. In order to issue a winner a legitimate 1099-MISC form, your Social Security number must be collected. Often you will be asked for your Social Security number via an affidavit and/or a W-9 form. A couple of caveats here:

  • You may be the winner of more than one prize in a sweepstakes and while each prize was less than $600, the total value of all prizes won may add up to over $600. In this event, you would be required to provide your Social Security number.
  • Alternatively, if you win a prize in more than one sweepstakes in the same calendar year from the same sponsor, you will be issued a 1099-MISC form which means again that you will have to pony up your Social Security number.

It’s natural to be skeptical about winning sweepstakes, especially if you don’t remember entering or were automatically entered. Just remember these tips to ensure you are not getting scammed: 1) never pay any money in order to receive a prize, 2) check out the official rules of the sweepstakes – whoever contacts you should be able to provide them, and 3) plug the name of the company reaching out to you into the Better Business Bureau’s website to learn more about them.