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It’s illegal for a company to tell someone to pay to enter a sweepstakes contest, or that buying something increases their odds of winning. You might not be surprised if a fly-by-night contest promoter deceived people by saying these things. But would you expect a well-known company that’s been running sweepstakes for decades to deceive people?

The FTC says that Publishers Clearing House used language and designs on its website and in its email marketing that tricked consumers, including many older adults, into believing they had to buy things on the PCH website to enter a sweepstakes. Or that doing so would improve their chances of winning a prize.

Customers who did buy something on were in for a few surprises. (And they didn’t involve someone arriving at their door with a giant check and a TV crew). The FTC says

  • PCH hid shipping and handling fees that added an average of 40% to customers' orders.
  • PCH's claims that orders were risk free were bunk. Customers had to pay the shipping costs to return merchandise.

As part of a settlement, PCH agreed to pay $18.5 million to provide refunds, among other things. Not every Publishers Clearing House customer will be eligible for a refund. Learn more about PCH refunds.

If you’re considering participating in a sweepstakes contest, here’s what to know:

  • Real sweepstakes are free and by chance. It’s illegal to ask you to pay or buy something to enter.
  • If you sign up for a contest, the promoters might sell your information to advertisers. If they do, you’re likely to see targeted ads online and get more junk mail, telemarketing calls, and spam email.
  • Scammers try to trick you into believing you won a prize. Never share your financial information or pay fees, taxes, or customs duties to get a prize.

Learn more about recognizing prize and sweepstakes scams. And if you see a prize scam, report it to the FTC at

This blog post was updated on July 6, 2023 with information about refunds.

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The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

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July 03, 2023

I want to file a claim.

July 03, 2023


Jo Peterson
July 03, 2023

I wasted so much money and time with PCH! For more than 20 years I entered at least twice per month! I did all entries by US mail. I received envelopes in multiples filled with pages of solicitation. I moved this year and they can’t find me now and I am so done with them!
Thanks so much for your very valuable information!

Rosario T Saldivar
July 03, 2023

My dad RIP was ordering magazines since 1988 and enter the sweepstake shame on these people for doing this. I counting after my dad passed and enter every month.

Carol Barchard
July 03, 2023

It’s about TIME.

Valerie A Cruz
July 03, 2023

That's what they told me the same thing that I had to buy something from them and then I would have five chances to win so yeah I was one of the ones they deceived

Deborah V Nettle
July 03, 2023

My poor deceased mother was deceived by Publishers and I will never forgive them, they are evil.

Georrgette S D…
July 03, 2023

Its good that it was noticed,I'm wondering if I will get some of the money back I spent about 1500?

Patricia Weinbach
July 03, 2023

I just opened a letter from a sweeptstakes organizer. And it said that I was he holder of he winning number for $6,392.00 and I would have to respond immediately. No money or gifts are requested from me; excpet a small donation from me for the Veteran Relief Netwprk for all the military people who have served for our country. I didn't leave my account number ( for fearA$5.00 of them using it to charge all kinds of fraudulent things on) Do I have anything to be afraid of from them of what I did?

Patricia Weinbach

July 03, 2023

I been buying since 1989 cuz pch says if you don't. Your sweepstakes in toss in trash.

Tina brown
July 03, 2023

I bought lots of stuff from them since 2014 & io them money's, because they keep sending envelopes of many deals on merch. When they say Icould win by buying stuff for more chances,& I call in every day to register(except for skipping a day sometimes,& never won anything,but keep trying & praying to win.

Chandra Walker
July 03, 2023

Used to participate in their sweepstakes quite often and then I stopped. I started to feel that they were rigged

Sylvia Ayodele
July 03, 2023

I've ordered items from PCH, thinking it would give me a better chance of winning, I received the merchandise but then it was way more than what I expected to pay, how do I find out if I'll be getting part of this money that they have to pay as consumers back? Thank you so much for putting this information out because I received something from them just the other day about going online and fill this out but whenever I do it's all kind of other information that they're asking and then I start receiving other sales papers in the mail thank you so much.

Edward Rupp
July 03, 2023

My phone has this very problem and always had these types of messages and emails, no matter what brand of phone . I do hope something can be done for me because it has to do with money loss for me. Thank you!

Karen Mathews
July 03, 2023

I was scammed big time , I Received a letter saying that I won a big giveaway prize and got a check for $896.87 for the taxes on the giveaway prize . They gave me a phone number to call and give them my code that was on the letter . It looked legit and they told me to hurry and go put it in the bank and call them right back. Not to tell or show this letter to anyone bc they can steal it . Yeah , I sat on it and decided to give PCH a call , They said that it was fake and to report it. I tried to but nothing happened. I still have it never threw it away in case I need it in the future.

Karen Mathews
July 03, 2023

I really believed them to, they had me thinking that it was really going to happen this time, I bought a bunch of stuff and now I’m in deep debt with them. I lost my Husband in November of 2022 and they had me brainwashed thinking that I really was a winner but it was just a lie, now I’m in debt with them, and they want their money now, I look at it they put me in debt so take it out of what you owe me. For the past years

Rebecca L Miller
August 24, 2023

In reply to by Karen Mathews

Hey Karen, tell them to go pound sand! Got it girl? It's unbelievable the scams out there! Watch out if they ask you for your last nine digits of your social security! It's a scam! 😂

Brandi Foy
July 03, 2023

Im going to explain the unlining issue with this whole dilemma.
#1 PCH SPECIFICALLY CLARIFIES BUYING DOES NOT INCREASE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING. This is a true statement I've been a member for many many years I can get behind that statement.
#2 They 100% do quote that very statement as the app, website ,etc attempts to entice while they 'process' your entry into one of the many sweepstakes they offer on the site.
#3 They may quote the above statement however they also make it very clear that opening the automated emails they send WILL INCREASE YOUR ENTRIES THUS INCREASING YOUR CHANCES if I could include a screenshot i would show you but I can't.
#4 They may relay to consumers buying will not increase chances however they ALSO make it clear that clicking emails & accepting your 'prize number' or multiple entries is pretty much detrimental for your chances of winning as well.
"We must have your decision: Accept your $1O,OOO.OO A Week For Life Prize Number or risk losing on the chance to win millions."
"In accordance with Official Doctrine, should you fail to claim today's PowerPrize Numbers before the 11:59PM, ET entry deadline expires, the Rights Relinquishment Clause will be INVOKED and you will surrender all rights to said numbers and any prize monies, including the $5,OOO,OOO.OO PowerPrize Jackpot, they could have won for you."
I've even recieved some stating someone with my initials in my area is the winner could it be me!? I would spend HOURS DAILY clicking emails , earning tokens by entering all the sweepstakes plus doing the search and win and for nothing more than to have them spamming my email telling me my daily weekly monthly entry(s) isn't enough. I LOVE PCH I do , however they may say you don't have to purchase to have a chance to win but your undivided & attentive time ,energy ,and dedication is absolutely necessary even if you've already entered. Time is money & I've wasted years months hrs days entering contests as they continued to redirect me from one to the next.

Rebecca L Miller
August 24, 2023

In reply to by Brandi Foy

You hit the nail on the head. Folks can't let their dreams get ahead of the facts. Check things out! If you are a winner one more day won't change things! I couldn't believe when I was called and told I won big with PGH. I got on their website, called them and was told it was a scam! If they ask for the last nine digits of your social security number it's definitely a scam!🙂

July 03, 2023

I bought from Pch for over 25 years
Never won anything...they are clever with their wording to suck you in.
The shipping is way too high on products, takes way to long to receive anything and the quality is usually very poor.
After 25 years i told them no more, take me off your mailing list. I was surprised, they actually did.
Still get the scam phone calls from someone pretending to be them. Don't answer. Let it go to voice mail!

July 03, 2023

I've shopped with PCH since 1972, and have never won anything. Although I get numerous envelopes in the mail, sometimes I get 2 a day. It does state, however, that you don't have to purchase anything to increase your chances of winning.

I have purchased some things over the years that I haven't seen elsewhere... and when I needed to return something... sometimes they say just to keep it and they credit my account.
I learned NOT to take advantage of the $30. surprise gift as you still have to pay the postage for it.

I receive my items in a timely manner, but my biggest complaint is how "high the postage is" on anything I buy. That's what makes me hesitate more now about something I want to buy!

On numerous envelopes, it always says... you could be our next winner but to no avail. Yes, I've received the calls that say I'm a winner and they need me to go up and buy a gift card for X amount of dollars. I "ALWAYS" tell them to go ahead and take it out of my winnings, which they say they can't do. Ha Ha So I tell them I'm not interested and to remove my name from their database, so I don't receive any more calls from them (the scammers)!!

Although I know it won't be much, it might help me recover what I've paid in postage over the years... I would still like to join the lawsuit.
Thank you!

Willie Wonka
July 03, 2023

How do I sign up to join this lawsuit? I highly doubt ftc will go through every PCH profile made or their mailing list

July 03, 2023

I felt like I was being deceived and stopped entering the sweepstakes

Janice Spruill
July 03, 2023

I'm 65 years of age and I've been doing this for 40 years or more. Even order merchandise and way back in the day magazines.

Crystal Roberson
July 03, 2023

I’ve gotten back to back calls I’ve won millions including a new Jeep. They claimed to be in Covington La. I live in Franklinton I happened to be in Covington which is 45 minutes away, and asked for their address to stop by. They said I had to purchase a 499.00 green dot card and call them with the information 1st. I even offered to get it and come in. Still no address. I blocked them. They still randomly call from a different number. SMH

Ebony Braithwaite
July 29, 2023

In reply to by Crystal Roberson

😔 I'm sorry to hear someone tried to scam you. I never understood scammers. I almost got scammed a few times but asked them: If I have to pay for a prize is it really a prize? Then they stopped calling me until a new one popped up. Good luck in all your endeavors 💜

Marynell Johnson
July 03, 2023

I played pch for over 40 years and never won nothing but 10 dollars. The promote people winning and one man says he doesn't play that much and win 20.000 dollars when you got people that play all the time and don't win. That is why I don't care about playing they not choosing winners fairly. Pch need to pay me cause I ordered a lot from them cause they fool me into thinking I had a better chance to win.

July 03, 2023

PCH needs to give people the money they won. I played and won $50,000.00. I wrote them many times and was told no I didn't but I did and they took it off and has never returned the game that day. On December 12, 2021 I won $645.00 to be put on a big screen. I wrote them many times and they said I would get it in 24 hours I have yet to receive it.

Tina DeVane
July 03, 2023

I'm confused the that I know never said you have to purchase a item to win a prize it is totally up to the consumer to order.
When I enter I never buy, I just enter I already know this is a chance sweepstakes.

David Stover
July 05, 2023

One thing how does pch dishes out the money to pay you if you win. I have mail out sweepstakes forms and even bought items. Nothing. I think pch is a gimmick.

Mikhail Nakhal
July 05, 2023

Daniella lam told me that I win 100000$ cnd
She asked gift card aple for
I.R.S. the sum of 2600$
And I send 1800$ .
She did not accept.
She did not send the package .
I have screen shots in whatsapp I can send them .

Juanita Peters
July 05, 2023

PCH has mailed many notices to me with my name on the entry forms stating that I am in the top drawings for millions for life. Then offer magazines for low discounted prices. This has been happening to me for years now. Just hit another notice of an upcoming drawing and to hold on to my lucky entry form.

Katherine Martin
July 05, 2023

I have been ordering merchandise from PCH for about 30 to 40 years. I have been severely disappointed with them. I’m always hoping that this time I would win.
But after reading this article I will no longer participate. Shame on them!

July 05, 2023

Does this mean we get a refund on the items we bought that had shipping and handling plus paying for returns with zero payment. So, if get our money back where do we file the claim ?

Lynn R
July 05, 2023

Me being young and naive back in the early 1980s, I fell for their "scam" for many years. Was always ordering magazines for years in a row, sometimes up to 3 subscriptions within a year. I never won anything at all even if I placed a response in the mail the same day I received the promotion from Publishers Clearing House where they said you could win something else if you are one of the first "number" of people who respond. True, it did say in their mailings that purchasing does not help your chance in winning, but it still was deceiving with the way their promotion was. Even though I no longer have proof, my name is the same exact name I used when I kept ordering/entering; so the settlement should include to provide us with some type of reimbursement. Did I enjoy reading the magazines back then, yes, but being young with an infant & toddler, I myself chose to enter based on their wording with me thinking I would win something or some money when I needed the money for pampers, daycare, etc. As I got older, I began to realize how much of a scam they were. I don't even believe I ever found out who the real winners were.

Elizabell Burch
July 10, 2023

I played pch ova 8 years fully i won $5 i were so happy n waites on that winning but it neva camed in the mail . They send the cheap winning $5-$10 that i neva saw or no i won. PCH are a scammer. I bought things . When it get here shipping n handling wit da company r terrible. Either it were open used or did not have ever complete item in da oder. Each form u have 4 order maybe less . What gets me are each item have own separately shipping and handling for one form .

Ralph Hunter
July 11, 2023

I'm in the middle of this deceptive practice I have paid the prize patrol member Danielle over 575$ for the way to win the jackpot and I just get more suggestions to send more will get me closer to the prize and I have stopped I have even received naked pictures of Danielle and offered sex, so I get so overcharged for shipping and handling for every item I ordered there is a shipping charge so if I would order more than one item I don't care how big or small it is there is a charge so for the things I ordered I pay more for S/H than the purchase price of the item

Susan Maxwell
July 11, 2023

I've only been entering PCH sweepstakes (and occasionally buying things) for the last 5 or 6 years, so I don't know what they did before then. But in my experience, PCH doesn't lie or mislead people in their ads--that is IF you read things thoroughly and completely. People also neglect to read the official rules of each sweepstakes, which are prominently posted on their site and in their mailings. I agree that their postage and handling costs are outrageous, and some of the stuff they sell is pretty much junk. But you don't have to buy ANYTHING to enter or win. People have poor reading comprehension or are lazy, then want to CRY FOUL!

Rebecca Miller
August 24, 2023

In reply to by Susan Maxwell

Susan:. You hit the nail on head girl! Everyone wants to blame someone else. I enter all the time. Have never bought anything, been asked for anything and probably will never win. But people should remember that it is illegal for any company to require you pay for or purchase anything to enter a sweepstakes! Check things out. I was called by PCH scammers and told I had to buy a $500 American Express Gift Card to receive my $8.5 million dollar win and my 2023 Chevy Malibu. I told them take it out of the 8.5 million! LOL! But, think about it, does that even make any sense?

Karen M.
July 12, 2023

PCH promises if you buy stuff you can win money. They scammed my 100 year old grandmother till one day I overheard her on the phone. I got on the line and told them never to call her again that she is 100 years old and suffers with dementia. They kept calling but I intercepted their calls and mail. It broke my heart to see her exploited like this. She had been sending them money. Glad to see something was done.

Tei Bracey
July 19, 2023

Please Include me in your lawsuit.

Charlie Boyd
July 26, 2023

Publsiher Clearing House sweepstakes. Every time I entered I read the info that said that I did not have to make a purchase to win so I did not make a purchase. On 1 occassion, they stated I had to scroll and add an item to the cart. So I had an item to the cart but did not authorize the purchase. Again their policy states clearly that "there is no purchase required to win". The next few hours I received a confirmation of order email. I immediately replied to the email stating that I did not purchase this item. A few days later, I received a confirmation email stating the merchandise had been shipping. I immediately sent an email stating I did not authorize any purchase. Now the item has been delivered and I have to pay expenses for the return of the item that I never ordered. I can't even get a return response by email and have also tried, unsuccessfully to reach them by phone. (wait time over 20 minutes)

Ebony Braithwaite
July 29, 2023

I've been doing PCH sense 2003. I read before purchasing stuff and it says, you don't have to buy anything to win. I bought some stuff because it looked cool. If people are buying stuff its on them. Read the rules of the sweepstakes you're entering in first. 🤔 I feel not everyone does.

Ralph D. Stewart Jr.
August 07, 2023

I have had more problems with-in the PCH website and with customer service, with at least 2000 emails and quite a few hundred print screens that show discrepancies that PCH won't correct.
I've was sent emails that were supposed to be entries into the $5,000.00 or something similar - that actually turned-out to be for prizes less than $50.00. I complained about the discrepancies, so PCH halted all emails to me.

Geronimo Waldorf
August 07, 2023

Do you guys call people that have not got their award yet and make arrangements to get them there money from PCH because I've been being called by this Patrick guy that says he's from PCH though lost department and I would like to know if you guys do that because he's asking for $199 for me to send it to him what Walmart to Walmart first he was asking for a MoneyPak and I just want to know if you guys do that

FTC Staff
August 07, 2023

In reply to by Geronimo Waldorf

That sounds like a scam. The FTC never asks you to pay to get a refund.

You don't need to contact the FTC to get a PCH refund. Read about the refunds at

Don't pay anyone who promises to get you a refund for a fee, or give anyone personal information to get a refund.

Theresa L Roberts
August 08, 2023

Ive have been ordering from there several times a year seemed like every week they wanted me to buy i never won nothing

Gary Lyn Wade
August 10, 2023

PCH is haters

Barbara A Jenkins
August 10, 2023

I have recently been scammed out of more than $600.00 by Publishers Clearing House. I jumped through hoops (put the red sticker here, the $ sticker here and return ONLY IF ORDERING).Clearly, this practice is in violation of the "no purchase required to win" rule. I'm angry- I fell for it. They even charged me more than $6.00 for a FREE GIFT. I ONLY recently realized that there is NO END to this contest. Thanks for letting me vent.

S. Hamilton
August 14, 2023

This dude wants me to go to Walmart for a $50 gift card on a American Express gift card. When they come to my door with the $7,000 prize, I’m to give them this card.