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Never pay to get a prize.

Say you hear or read the words: “You’ve won!” What will you do with your winnings? Who wouldn’t be excited to win a prize, sweepstakes, or lottery? But…did you actually win? And how do you know?

Sweepstakes, prize, and lottery frauds are among the top scams people report to the FTC. These scams usually start with a call or message that says you’re a winner. (A lie.) They say to get the so-called prize you have to send money or click somewhere to give your information. Don’t. The most recent FTC data shows people reported losing $301 million to this type of fraud. That’s an average loss of $907 per person.

But there are also legitimate contests and prizes that follow the law and give real prizes. So how do you know the difference?

One question to consider is: did you enter the sweepstakes or play the lottery? If not, you absolutely didn’t win. And here are other ways to spot and avoid prize scams:

  • Don’t pay to get a prize. Real prizes are free. Anyone who asks you to pay a fee for "taxes," "shipping and handling charges," or “processing fees” to get your prize, is a scammer. Stop and walk away.
  • Don’t give your financial information. There is absolutely no reason to ever give your bank account or credit card number to claim a prize. If anyone asks for it, it’s a scam.
  • Don’t give your personal information. Scammers hope you’ll click on links that will take your personal information or download malware on your device. Delete the message without clicking on the links and don’t respond.

Check out #FTCTopFrauds and to learn more. Already paid a scammer? Learn how to get your money back and tell the FTC at

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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.

  • We won’t post off-topic comments, repeated identical comments, or comments that include sales pitches or promotions.
  • We won’t post comments that include vulgar messages, personal attacks by name, or offensive terms that target specific people or groups.
  • We won’t post threats, defamatory statements, or suggestions or encouragement of illegal activity.
  • We won’t post comments that include personal information, like Social Security numbers, account numbers, home addresses, and email addresses. To file a detailed report about a scam, go to

We don't edit comments to remove objectionable content, so please ensure that your comment contains none of the above. The comments posted on this blog become part of the public domain. To protect your privacy and the privacy of other people, please do not include personal information. Opinions in comments that appear in this blog belong to the individuals who expressed them. They do not belong to or represent views of the Federal Trade Commission.

Carl Hastings
April 10, 2023

Not info that I could not have figured out....but very sound info here--sometimes we need outside confirmation and the logic behind the thinking. I liked this announcement--it provided both info to watch out for and the logic behind it.

Good Work! And it is understandable I think for people at most levels of education.

April 10, 2023

I have had my phone calls blocked for unknown callers for quite a while, so they have now started texting me through my email every day but I block and never open link. I get about twenty emails a day. It’s frustrating but it only takes a couple of clicks so I’ll just keep doing it. I’m not an easy person to get sucked into their madness. Maybe more should be done to stop the texting emails by the government. Very annoying!

April 11, 2023

In reply to by Sue

For what it's worth, I created a separate email address which I use for all things that resemble this kind of scam or emails I'm not sure of. This way I don't have my regular email box cluttered.

Matthew Dillion
April 10, 2023

These people are criminals and I keep unsubscribing from their email without success. How can I stop these worthless emails being sent to me?

April 11, 2023

In reply to by Matthew Dillion

By clicking the "unsubscribe" button you're confirming it's an active email account. Better to use the block or spam button in your email account.

A. Gerrish
April 17, 2023

In reply to by Phil

Sound advice! Thank you Phil. I will definitely be doing it this way then clicking their unsubscribe button.

Steve , retired
April 10, 2023

I have been bombarded with "You have won a lottery " calls on the phone. I hang up immediately. You cannot trust anyone. Stay vigilant and watch out. Good Luck

Victor Robinson
April 10, 2023

They got me

April 10, 2023

Create a separate email address for use at anytime you're not sure of who you're giving it to. You can check it whenever you want and not clutter up you're regular email box.

Emmett Williams
April 24, 2023

In reply to by Ralph

I use hide my email it sends an email address that is rerouted through apple to my email the third party never sees my real email address.

April 10, 2023

I wonder if PCH hasn't gone astray with its win-a-prize "Searching" strategy? Isn't this just another way of collecting our information from these third-party searches just to "qualify" for each prize?

A Person
May 02, 2023

In reply to by Diana

Yes, PCH has definitely lost it's way. May 1, 2023. Beware of emails. They are cartoonish. Good luck trying to block calls and messages. Best bet is to also file a complaint with the Attorney General Larose in Columbus, Ohio.

April 10, 2023

I recently had to help my mom with this. If you or anyone pays for these prizes go back to read the terms. You likely signed up for a 'free trial' that will charge you every 30 days. The terms and conditions will have a phone number listed. Call it to cancel your subscription. You'll see a name listed too, they're usually health apps that you're signing up for under the guise of 'winning'.
Always read the terms first. If you're still sceptical copy the website url, open chrome and paste it in. You'll often find that it's a fake site.

April 11, 2023

In reply to by Kris

Yes I about let’s see
I about 83 calls a day from people say I won but it alway nothing come of it PCH away says I won all these prizes but too ship the item and say they say o. It’s too me o by the way it’s 2dollars to ship it the trick is they PCH ask for a credit card num. and they take money off you card and you never get items just to get you card num. to try and your money later and that’s breaking the law

sara villa
April 11, 2023

there a big scam with Costco and Walmart saying come and collect your prize - the scam is so transparent, I just wish that the Federal government could do something by means of huge fines and community service for people who are con artists, something that if they do get caught that it really hits them financially or get serious jail time to make them think twice about fraudulent activity.

Alanna Mozzer
April 11, 2023

My experience with sweepstakes has been that if they are real they will never ask for money or charge anything. Only a lottery is allowed to charge for tickets, and in the United States only governments run lotteries these days. A raffle may also charge for tickets but those are usually a charitable fund raiser of some sort. My experience has been that if you do win something you are usually notified by letter.

Robert L. Barksdale
April 11, 2023

I got hit with this scam twice in the month of March. I recognized it immediately as a scam as soon as the person speaking said I had to pay $35,000.00 in advance to the
IRS to receive the prize. I immediately shut it down and have not heard from them since. Both times I had supposedly won multimillion dollars prizes from Publishing Clearing House.

Diane Campanile
May 01, 2023

Mortified I got scammed this morning. Reported the phishing email and notified bank.
Kohls ad used!

Virginia Simer
May 02, 2023

I was playing an online game, Bingo Master, and racking up a lot of money that would be paid to me by PayPal, through a company called Yodlee. They asked for a lot of information and, like a dummy, I agreed. Even though they were a PayPal partner I didn't feel right and contacted PayPal who IMMEDIATELY replied that Yodlee had nothing to do with them and not to give them ANY INFORMATION. I began checking my accounts and sure enough under EFT's was their name. I was able to revoke my approval instantly. I have contacted other account holders and ensured they know not to give them any information or money. It is true - IF IT SEEMS TO GOOD TO BE TRUE, IT PROBABLY IS...

Mary Ann Sheld…
May 04, 2023

I appreciate the warning because I've recently received such calls.

Ernie Magaha
May 10, 2023

Delta Airlines stated i won unlimited Delta unlimited travel card for taking survey. pay $9.97 shipping...I almost went for it. Probably a scam. If too good to be true probably is a scam

Eric Dixon
May 17, 2023

I'm pretty sure I have been targeted for a "Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes" scam, and may have made a big mistake ! "HELP" !!!