could cost you plenty!
Every day, thousands
of Americans receive sweepstakes offers, but not all of them are
legitimate. How can you tell the difference between a real sweepstakes
and a scam?
are fun and free. They specify that no purchase is needed to win
and buying a product will not increase your chances of winning--you
never have to pay to collect a prize. The U.S. Postal Inspection
Service, the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), and the Postal
Service's Office of Consumer Advocate are sponsoring this consumer-awareness
campaign to point out the characteristics of fraudulent promotions
and help limit the number of victims of these scams.
You do not have to pay to enter a sweepstakes or collect a prize.
If you're asked to pay, the sweepstakes is a scam.
suggest you ask yourself these questions to prevent being scammed:
- Does the
promoter ask for your credit card number, checking account number,
bank account information, or other personal account information?
A legitimate prize company won't ask for this to declare you a
- Do they ask
you to wire money or make a payment in an urgent manner? Do you
feel pressure to make a payment within a given time deadline to
collect your prize? Take a step back and evaluate the offer. Contact
a Postal Inspector to verify that you're dealing with a legitimate
- Does the
advertising copy clearly state that no purchase is necessary to
win and a purchase will not increase your chances of winning?
You never have to pay to play or to collect your prize
when the sweepstakes is legitimate.
is one of the few crimes in which victims can decline to participate--if
they recognize the warning signs. That's why the U.S. Postal Inspection
Service regards consumer education as one of its top weapons in
Inspectors work to protect postal customers from misuse of the mail.
Inspectors place special emphasis on mail fraud scams related to
sweepstakes, advance fees, boiler rooms, health care, insurance,
investments, deceptive mailings and other consumer schemes, especially
when they target older Americans or other susceptible groups. Postal
Inspectors responded to more than 82,000 mail fraud complaints in
2004. This year they've already responded to more than 53,000 complaints.
Inspectors began an investigation earlier this year after receiving
hundreds of complaints from people across the country about a solicitation
congratulating them on winning a sweepstakes prize. Over 10
million notifications were mailed out. The problem was, "winners"
had to send a fee of $20 to $25 for "processing costs" to collect
their prize. No legitimate sweepstakes offer makes you pay to collect
a prize. In this case, there was no prize. Inspectors are considering
criminal charges or civil penalties of up to $1 million for this
scam, which involves various company names and more than 50 different
questions? These U.S. Postal Inspection Service publications have
546, Sweepstakes Advertising text-only version
300-A, Consumer & Business Guide to Preventing Mail Fraud text-only version
300-A-S, Guia del Consumidor y Comercial para la Prevencion del Fraude Postal o solamente texto
281, Consumer Fraud by Phone or Mail text-only version
You can also read the news release about sweepstakes fraud, o
aprenda más en español. solamente texto
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service
The mission of the Postal Inspection Service is to protect the U.S.
Postal Service, its employees and its customers from criminal attack,
and protect the nation's mail system from criminal misuse. Postal
Inspectors investigate any crime in which the mail is used to further
a scheme--whether it originated in the mail, by telephone, or on
the Internet. The use of the mail is what makes it mail fraud. If
you feel you've been victimized in a scheme that involves the U.S.
Mail, submit a Mail
Fraud Complaint Form online to the Postal Inspection Service.
Marketing Association is the leading trade association for businesses
and organizations interested in direct, interactive, and database
marketing, which in 2004 generated more than $2.3 trillion in US
sales, including $143.3 billion in catalog sales and $52.5 billion
in Web-driven sales. In addition to catalogs and the Web, DMA members
employ a wide variety of marketing media, including mail, e-mail,
telephone, newspapers and magazines, interactive television, and
radio, among others. The DMA's membership represents marketers from
every business segment, including catalogers, Internet retailers,
retail stores, nonprofit organizations, advertising agencies, financial
services providers, book and magazine publishers, book and music
clubs, industrial manufacturers, and a host of other vertical segments,
as well as the service industries that support marketers.
the Office of The Consumer Advocate
The Consumer Advocate and the Consumer Affairs function of the U.S.
Postal Service is to listen to the voice of the customer and amplify
the message to postal managers. Data gathered through independent
measurement systems and internal contacts provide a barometer of
customer satisfaction and guide postal managers in actions needed
to improve operating and service performance. Through proactive
external messaging, the Office of the Consumer Advocate also channels
information from the Postal Service to customers on postal policy
and procedures and on ways to get the most from their Post Office.
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