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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.

  • We won’t post off-topic comments, repeated identical comments, or comments that include sales pitches or promotions.
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  • We won’t post threats, defamatory statements, or suggestions or encouragement of illegal activity.
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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.

Stephen Bulfer
June 28, 2023

Very good information… I almost got taken but was fed up with all the sweepstakes being pummeled upon me. Thank you for the update.

Denise Sawyer
June 28, 2023

PCH got my Dad in 2021. He was in his eighties they would call him telling him he would need to send money in Walmart Gift Cards. It took a lot of patience to have him understand the it was a scam.

Christine Schelp
June 28, 2023

I’ve never been frustrated by a company like this one. Then there was Amazon. Then there was QVC. QVC was HORRIBLE!! I had to get my card cancelled to avoid all these fraudulent charges from them off. This has gone on for a faw years. They’ve wasted my credit. I’ve tried making a new acct w/ a different card and they automatically start making the same fraudulent charges to my new acct. I’ve contested the charges many times. They say everything has been taken care of but it never has been. Some of the biggest fraudsters out there like Amazon! Please, FTC, go after these crooks and make things right!!!

June 28, 2023

FTC says. So what? I don't care what FTC says. I am curious what FTC is going to DO about it.

June 28, 2023

In reply to by M.J.

Good point, I am sure something was done since there was a settlement? Will (us consumers of PCH) we see any of it? Curious to see what the next article on this issue is.

FTC Staff
June 28, 2023

In reply to by M.J.

Click on the link in this blog to connect to the press release. (A link is words in that are underlined and in blue text. The link in this blog is "FTC says.")

PCH agreed to the proposed court order that requires the company to turn over $18.5 million to the FTC. The money will be used for consumer refunds.

Charles McGuffey
June 28, 2023

Thank you FTC for your oversight and warning about the PCH marketing policies and techniques. I have been using their website for about 10 years (always hoping that I would win a big prize of course). I totally agree the company's contests are extremely focused on buying their thousands of products! The wording and "popup" suggestions/reminders used throughout the games are very strong suggestions to purchase or that "you've never made a purchase"! BUT I must say that I have never seen it written that a purchase would increase my chances of winning.......except the extreme persuasive language suggests/indicates it would help the chances/odds of winning. Also, on two occasions over these years they have sent me "winner" checks; one for $10 and one for $20. I deposited them and they did clear the bank. I have been amazed at how "suggestive" is the language! Again, I applaud your work on this because I worried about how many people get fooled and tricked into making purchases.

BTW I subscribe to your website and read EVERY publication about fraud and potential fraud. I have a folder overflowing with your stories and warnings! MUCH THANKS!

Charles McGuffey
Concerned citizen

Minerva Rivera
December 21, 2023

In reply to by Charles McGuffey

I did receive a check for $10.00 long time ago. That's the only thing I have won for a long 15 years playing their game. Now, that I know how fraudulent they are , the game is over!!!!

Ell Coulber
June 28, 2023

For a decade I was sucked into their 'games', buying merchandise that was subpar and getting excited when correspondences said that it could be me, they crew is possibly headed my way, and that of course, if I didn't make a purchase to use a certain sticker or add a certain slip into an envelope to increase the chances by "×" number of entry numbers. Of course, I always felt compelled to buy in order to keep my entry numbers in the drawing and better my chances of winning any one of their cash prized from $100 to millions. It took me 10 years to reach a moment of clarity and I put an end to participating in any of their games. It wasn't worth the money nor the anxiety of believing the "encouraging" email messages leading up to the sweepstakes check delivery day! Their business is bait and bait again through hallow tactics that makes everyone believe that their chances of winning have been improved because they submitted even more qualifying numbers for one of many semifinal drawing. If you don't mail in an order some of your "already entered numbers" could be eliminated!
It was clear to me that the scratch slips you included in your mail in envelope had no numbers on them, nothing was on them to connect you in any manner to the prize drawing indicated. It was one of the clearest, cruel sucker punches they came up with! It was simple...they sent you trash to mail back to them so the folks processing incoming mail could put the slips and the entries w/o orders, into the shredder bin ( hopefully for recycle). They love making "suckers" of us by miss use of the Postal Service and deceitful wording through a barrage of daily email messages.
Sadly, they'll still be doing the same thing a decade into the future.

Rebecca Cook-Baker
June 28, 2023

I was a victim of PCH buying scam. Purchased 4 items this year. 2 ended up being defective and or stopped working after a few months.

June 28, 2023

I was addicted so yes I can believe this.

Mary Kneiser
June 29, 2023

They've been doing that for YEARS. I'm surprised the FTC is just now noticing.

K Ferrenburg
June 29, 2023

I knew I was wasting time and money for the last 20 years never to receive a thank you letter for giving my info for them to keep using for their gain with our trust accounts. Thanks a lot PCH prize Control

Angelia H Hawk…
June 29, 2023

This is true, I have been playing their games and buying the cheap products for years.

While saying you do not have to buy anythind. While all the time putting products up for you to buy.

But writting/printing that making a purchase does not cause you to win anything yet, on the other hand telling you that one purchase can add your claim to win the sweepstakes.

It's all a money making game to them and the products are of low quality.

I have recie a check for $5 two years ago and one for $10 this year after playing since I was 18 and now I am 64. but it is a choice.

Gwendolyn Crawford
June 29, 2023

When will long timers know when refunds are coming. Will Pch send out notice or letters to consumers. I believe I’ve been with them since the 70’s

Jennifer Beauregard
June 29, 2023

Not only did I enter everyday and bought merchandise also. How do I find out if I was included in the money they had to pay out. 18.5 million.

June 29, 2023

PCH changed ver the years and they never contact you back once you are close to winning … they ghost ppl with fake ads… I have been entering since I was teenagers hoping to win to help my mother buy a home… thanks for nothing PCH

Geary Godfrey
June 29, 2023

I have bought so many items from PCH because they made it seem like that's the only way you can win the money prizes and never won nothing but credit card charges.

Jacqueline Valerio
June 29, 2023

I have sent PCH 2 separate emails letting them know that I have been entering their sweepstakes for more than 40 years, and why throughout those years I have never won anything from PCH SWEEPSTAKES since they have said I have the winning #s and so forth and send me letters stating that they know how much I want to be a winner., I have ordered numerous items as they said that I should at the time of entering. I HAVE NOT ORDERED and they add the items to entice you to purchase, I have ordered several things throughout the years. From 2001-2023 and even before 2001 I ordered. This year between all the letters, notifications, and emails, mobile has been blown-up to soon become a winner...and a big winner, but not so! I had returned so many items after I realized that the shipping and handling was a larger amount than the items, I felt that I was being tricked and felt foolish...I had to return more than four hundred dollars of items that I refused to pay so much for S/H just this year. It has been a big disappointment, to believe a lie, I truly believe this was coming from Publishers Clearing House, so if anyone was the scammer, that would be PCH, it was not a fake letter or fake entry. It was no other than themselves (PCH)
I do hope that I will get some part of the 18.5 million settlement. (all consumers)

Angenetta williams
June 29, 2023

How do I file my claim they have cheated a lot of people how do they sleep

Lisa Williams
June 29, 2023

I have received emails from them claiming to have won money from their sweepstakes and I have not received any compensation from them in the past 3 years. I have also did their scratch off and have claimed to have an substantial amount of money which I have not received a long with compliance with their deadlines they give you. This is unjust and fraudulent on their behalf.So I think they should be made to pay the substantial amounts claiming to have been won by each individual

Barronette Rawls
June 29, 2023

PCH sent me letter saying I won 2,500,000 dollars to be sent in the mail he asked for my DL number and my bank name no check came it was august 2022 i I filed complaint with Az fraud consumer and yesterday with FTC in Washington they are liers I brought magazine yrs ago won not one cent

Ellen R Baker
June 29, 2023

I was hurt by a PCH notice that I needed to pay an "international" fee to release Canadian funding---the "bill" was $7800!
This happened 01/11/2022.

I reported the scam, but have not recovered one penny of this amount--- as I do not know who to contact.

PCH (or those claiming to represent PCH) has started the phone calls again---this week 06/26/23--- I did not answer & deleted the calls! They will be reported to law enforcement.

Floria Taliaferro
June 29, 2023

I purchased from them for years until I realized it wasn’t true they should be ashamed

Virginia Wilkins
June 29, 2023

PCH does state that buying an item does not increase chances of winning!
I agree that the shipping and handling charge are too much on top of the item
I have been buying since I came to the US in 2007 and only had $10.00 cheque from them

Rose Branda
June 29, 2023

I have been buying and entering the PCH for years I have never won anything but $10.00 from them spent a lot money. How do I get into the settlement.

June 29, 2023

I would enter the sweepstakes thru the mail and purchase items, I even downloaded the app that they have cause it said that you have better chances online, I've entered several sweepstakes and never won a dang thing.
With them, you were sent mail every day or every week for a new sweepstakes but never win anything. I think Their commercials are false advertisement showing people that have won.
Haven't delt with them for awhile, but it's a compensation and money owed back to people who delt with them and we have a right to that money for being scammed for years.
I would also like to be included in the settlement

June 29, 2023

I have been paying for junk items because I thought it would increase my odds of winning since 2007!! I have experienced many return problems from them. I have stopped dealing with them for the past year. How do I file a claim?

Ray Cole
June 29, 2023

A link to sign up would be great! Thanks

Tom O'Neill
June 29, 2023

Thank you

Barbara CHamilton
June 29, 2023

This scam by PCH is so old and should have been stop years ago - stealing from 90% elderly people. Glad it was brought to the light.

Janelle Hardin
June 29, 2023

I'm a disabled senior who lives on a fixed income. I believed in what they said that your chances of winning increases if you buy stuff from them. It's a joke. They keep sending mail, emails. I can't even say how much I've spent, but over the 20 years or so I've spent a lot hoping to have that knock on my door or hear the doorbell ring. Nothing, silence. So, what happens now? Do we get satisfaction? I'm not getting my hopes up.

Tony Cooper
June 29, 2023

PCH does deceive people by telling them to purchase more items. They say it will increase your chances on entries to win.

Phyllis L Afflick
June 29, 2023

I have entered Publisher's Clearing House sweepstakes and was told by PCH that buying would help the chances to win. One thing was never enough. PCH makes you believe that ordering increases chances of winning. Please add me to this lawsuit!

Carolyn Samuels
June 29, 2023

Where is link to file a claim?

Carlos Wilson
June 30, 2023


Lucy Caudill
June 30, 2023

This is for my father who believed each time he would be winner because he bought things from them those was the people who won he believed for 40 yrs or more .So yes about time they got thier coming upings, . And; I hope you use that money to pay consumer what they should have won . And it would or make my dad looking down from heaven very happy to see finally get my inheritance, that he wanted to give me the only reason he played and payed

June 30, 2023

Yeah agree pch lies I order once in a while in their email they say if you buy your chances are better to win the grand prize, they never showed up, they are liars, I stopped buying from them not worth my time anymore. I wish they stop selling my information to people that's how scammers get our information

Willie patrick
June 30, 2023

Trying to win for years one day

Susan Rinker
June 30, 2023

I've been doing this publishing clearing house since I was in my twenties I am now 64 I have never won as much as $5 on their site. I did receive a call from a scammer you said he was from PCH and said I wanted to say very expensive vehicle and I won thousands and thousands of dollars and all I had to do was go get a prepaid card and pay something up front and they would have it delivered. Of course I did not believe it because I was pretty sure in a Google that PCH doesn't call you on the phone and tell you that you won. But I think they just get you to play the games watch the ads because every time you watch their ads they get money for it and I've been doing this for over 30 years I have one nothing.

June 30, 2023

Publishers Clearing House has sent me many letters over the years claiming l was in the running to win as a customer on the top of the list. Many times l sent in the requirements and waited only to find out l NEVER won. Finally l got so mad that l told them to stop sending me these false claims and advertisements through the mail. If l could have sued then l would have. They made each envelope they sent me look as though l was going to win. I never won anything

Cynthia Narkoff
June 30, 2023

Is there a petition something I can put my name on and add myself to what Publisher Clearinghouse has been doing all these years to people like myself ? I hate putting it out there because it makes me look so stupid, but since 1983 I've been buying things. going through their hoops of filing out forms and doing what they ask of you. The Way they word things makes it seem like if you purchase you have a chance of winning ! I stopped buying things awhile ago because I don't have the money to now. I still play their games and sign because they make it sound like you will win ! I really truly believe in them ! You think by now I would have realized, I really thought they'd call me that I won ! I feel totally deceived in absolutely stupid now.

Bettina harper
June 30, 2023

I ordered something from them a while ago but i stopped because they kept telling me i will win the prize if i keep on purchasing items

Hugh Gautier
July 03, 2023

PCH has been selling to me all of the time, the problem is it is up to the user who ordered something to remember when to send in a payment because they are allowing you to make 5 payments, you get no reminders, not even in e-mail. My current bill is $869.56, they know I get Social Security, which is set to pay the bills, but not those PCH bills. And for those who aren't aware PCH bills on a 28-day month, not the normal 30-day month.
One thing I do know is that they have put two items in a package, but charged a separate shipping/handling, and postage fee per item although they only paid one fee for sending those 2 items. that to me is gouging.

Diane Morton
July 03, 2023

I want to thank everyone and FTC for your comments and this article. I too, have been with PCH for decades. Most of the "stuff" they have last's a short time. Good luck to the folks that get that money, but I am now signing off of their website. Thanks again to everyone who made comments here!

Thomas Z Cady
July 14, 2023

Giving up on Publisher's contest 40 years ago; I couldn't imagine have them or any News crews damaging our lawn and neighbor's in our neighborhood. Aside from that, there were magazines/books/manuals that I had ordered for 20 years before that I had ordered. The nuisances then as now with 117 Public Information Brokers; too many people's around the World personal information was/is now sold for cash to have Scam Calls, Emails and Text that interfere were a Peaceful Enjoyment at any age. Now it troubling to known the out abuses provided by The Public Information Act open 'warfare on sane living' that taxpayers' monies spend and continue to pay over the last 100+ years is readily available. What Publisher's did was all too similar "to military' profiteering at Public expense. Too many elected and appointed in government that many could not/would not qualified to continuously earn an honest living in the real world. Too much finger pointing by Church and State! Blabbermouths, "we did not think it would do any harm"! Meddling Matters, it has brought us spend a great deal of personal money for protections that need not occur. After thought protection, does ring solid. The Billionaire class just haven't any respect for our Privacy Rights at any age; notably at nearly 80 now. With limited visual and silent time to enjoy what we purchase without ending up being on the Dark Web. Would State and Federal 'employed' be willing to compensate their foolish "lets do this and we won't be around to clean-it-up-later"!

steve samoheyl
July 03, 2023

I just ordered an I pad on June 6th. It has not arrived. Probably a scam
PCH is dealing with!
Thanks! I'll keep looking for delivery from or thru WalMart!
Steve Sam.

Vickie L Davis
July 03, 2023

I have bought quite a few items from Publishing Clearing House. When will we get our refund.

Vickie L Davis
July 03, 2023

June 30 2023. I have been playing Publishers Clearing House and buying quite a few items for long time now. When will I get a refund?