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Internet sweepstakes are online contests that allow people to enter a variety of contests to win prizes. Sweepstakes contest are often grouped by age, interests, products or the value of the prizes. The value of prizes can range from a small amount up to thousands of US dollars or more. The sweepstakes can represent a one-time offer, or it might be ongoing on a monthly or weekly basis.
Some of the higher-end prizes offered include cars, motorcycles, trucks and vehicle-related items such as accessories and gasoline. Winners must be sure to understand that taxes must be paid on these and other expensive prizes. It is better for participants to know this beforehand than to suffer the disappointment of winning a prize only to learn that they cannot afford the taxes.
Another form of sweepstakes involves testing products to receive prizes or cash. To enter these sweepstakes, one must simply provide demographic information in order to receive invitations via email. Participants should be sure to read the invitation to understand what kind of prize is being offered.
Some contests offer prizes for creative people. Those who enjoy writing, photography, Web design, video production and even cooking can enter contest that offer prizes for work in these areas. There are even contests that are geared toward children or teenagers.
Playing or operating Internet sweepstakes can come with a tangle of complicated rules and laws. The global reach of the Internet further complicates these rules, because multiple countries are involved. One should always carefully read the rules and terms before entering any sweepstakes. A legitimate sweepstakes will clearly list the rules, odds of winning, when winners will be announced and how to get a list of winners.
Companies sometimes offer Internet sweepstakes to increase traffic to their websites or to increase interest in their products. Some contests require entrants to agree to receive email newsletters and other offers. These lists could be sold to other companies that send out email alerts, as well. Again, participants should read the fine print of the sweepstakes rules.
It is always wise to use caution when playing Internet sweepstakes games. Some of them are scams. A scam often involves a request for bank account information or other personal information. A consumer advocacy organization can be used to check out any sweepstakes operation before any personal information is provided.
Some sweepstakes companies that are fraudulent will operate from countries separate from where the intended participants live. This happens partly because it is difficult to find and prosecute criminals located in another country. These companies often attempt to reach people through unsolicited emails.
Sweepstakes companies that require fees or purchases should be avoided. In some countries, it is illegal to require a purchase or suggest the chance of winning is greater if a purchase is made. This can apply whether there is an outright request to make a purchase or the message is subtle.
@MrsPramm - There are plenty of real sweepstakes online as well and I know people who have won things like trips. But even then you've got to be careful. There was a couple in the news a while ago who thought they had won a competition with a holiday and free luggage as the prize. It turned out the company had hidden drugs in the luggage with the hope that they would carry it through customs, but the couple realized their bags were too heavy and went to the police.
@irontoenail - A really good scam will cater to that, though. They will actually plant people in forums to talk about how wonderful the opportunity is and how much money they won.
I've even read about scams that go so far as to set up a local number that redirects to another country, so that they can answer calls and make it seem like they are a real company.
The sad thing is, they usually manage to con older people who aren't so savvy about the internet and how it works and are thrilled to think they have won something.
Remember that just because it looks like an email comes from a reputable company, doesn't mean that it actually does. They can use whatever brand they like to try and seem legitimate, but then direct you to a different website when you click on the email.
If you get an email from a big company, make sure you go to their website by looking for it on Google, rather than going through the links on the email (unless you know for sure that the email is legitimate).
If they aren't someone you recognize, try looking them up with the words "fraud" or "scam". People are often good about posting concerns online and you might be able to see if anyone else has been tricked by them.
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