|Ask yourself these questions before you decide to enter a sweepstakes or mail your money in response to a telemarketing offer:
- Do I have to pay to receive the "prize" or enter a sweepstakes? You should never have to pay to receive a prize or enter a sweepstakes contest. If you do, it's illegal.
- Am I a "guaranteed" winner or told "no risk is involved?" If you're told you're a guaranteed prize winner or that there's no risk involved, be skeptical.
- Is the lottery offer from a foreign country? Any lottery that involves a foreign country and is conducted through the mail is illegal.
- Charity or sweepstakes--or both? "By returning your entry form, you could be the winner of $20,000 cash!" These are charity sweepstakes. Legitimate charities don't ask for donations in conjunction with a contest. The problem is that many phony charities use names that sound or look like respected organizations.
- Do I have to give any personal or financial information? Don't give your financial information--Social Security number, credit card, or bank account numbers--to callers you don't know. If it's a reputable group, this information won't be requested.
- Am I pressured into responding right away? Don't be pressured into making an immediate decision. Get all information in writing before you agree to enter a contest, make a purchase, or give a donation.
If you suspect fraud, contact the Postal Inspection Service.