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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.

Diana Grindle
June 28, 2023

I have been ordering from publisher clearing house since around 1989. And I always would try to buy at least one thing. Because they did say buying would help chances. Ha I have never one big. I finally stopped dealing with them all together.They are SCAMMERS.

rosalie wolf j…
June 30, 2023

In reply to by Diana Grindle

I have gotten sucked into publishers clearing house for years paid so much ordering magazines because they said i was a winner. its a scam

June 30, 2023

In reply to by Diana Grindle

I agree they always emailed me saying im the next winner and they are on their way never show up,

August 28, 2023

In reply to by Paula


July 03, 2023

In reply to by Diana Grindle

I bought since 1989 they said if you don't. Your odds of winning are 0. Or toss your sweepstakes in trash..

Sylvia Session
August 17, 2023

In reply to by Alice

I have been playing and buying since 1992 will I be getting any thing back?

Leroy McLeod
July 14, 2023

In reply to by Diana Grindle

PCH back in 1980 to 2023 I join PCH and paid for products from the PCH catalog and never wond anything. I need my money back from PCH.

October 16, 2023

In reply to by Diana Grindle

Diana, I too have been playing their games for years along with ordering merchandise. they give you the impression that you had better purchase something. Once I played and I couldn't continue forward until I purchased something and when I didn't win, I knew that I was being taken advantage of.

October 26, 2023

In reply to by Diana Grindle

I have been entering the publishers clearing House sweepstakes since the seventies, and I have never seen or thought or believe that buying something would increase chances of winning. Where does it say that at I never saw it. I always saw bourbon singing buying something that's not increase your chances to win what is this?

Fred, Nov. 7, 2023
November 08, 2023

In reply to by Anita

A new sweepstakes envelope was in my mail today. The one boasting a winner to be decided on Dec. 27, 2023: $5,000,000.00, plus $5,000.00 a week for life. The official “order-entry form and “Claim Golden Loyalty Rewards” states on opposite side in bold underlined: PLEASE DON’T RETURN THIS FORM WITHOUT ORDERING!
I’m keeping this form and requesting PCH to remove me from their mailing lists!

David Kramer
June 28, 2023

PCH, has it Written Every were, that Purchasing Does NOT Increase your Chances.

Nadia Rosh
July 03, 2023

In reply to by David Kramer

It's true they said that, but people not reading fine text.

June 28, 2023

PCH is also notorious for already populating an item in your cart without your knowledge for purchase...

July 03, 2023

In reply to by Linda

Ive never heard of them putting things in your cart you didnt order. Must not be as "notorious" as you say. Its pretty OBVIOUSLY a scam to sell product, but a local guy did win here about 10 yrs ago. I think its a GOOD thing FTC is exposing the truth. We are SO GULLABLE nowadays we BELIEVE ANYTHING without Vetting 1st. NOBODY bothers to check things out even with all the internet at our fingertips. I wish they would do something about the robocalls.

August 14, 2023

In reply to by Pokey

It states clearly no purchase necessary to win and a purchase will not increase your chance of winning. People don't read any print, not just fine print and of course it's everyones fault but their own. They have never added anything to my cart either.

August 30, 2023

In reply to by Susan

I agree with your comments, Susan. I have had the same experience with PCH. Sometimes folks are not paying attention. You are correct when you say that PCH clearly state "no purchase is necessary to win." I've been playing for years, and you never know who will win next!! Good luck! ☺️ ❤️

September 06, 2023

In reply to by Pokey

My thing is, they have so many drawing’s throughout the year..saying things like $10,000 a week for life. Where does that money come from? I could understand maybe a yearly drawing, but one, sounds like almost monthly!!. I’ve entered sooo many times over the years, and have ordered their really cheap products, I’m done!!

September 15, 2023

In reply to by Nancy

I'm guessing that the money comes from the money they make off of the purchases they try to get everybody to make. I suspect that's the reason they seem so hard pressed to sell all that stuff.

Conspiracy Theorist
September 11, 2023

In reply to by Pokey

I guarantee you can't prove local guy actually won

Sandra Cunningham
September 18, 2023

In reply to by Pokey

They sent me something I did not order. I called them and they wanted me to send it back. I told them they would have to pay the shipping and they said keep it.

August 07, 2023

In reply to by Linda

Maybe I wanted to be anonymous ain't that my choice as far as anything in my card I have no idea what you're talking about but I do believe that PCH will do the right thing

Linda Miller
August 10, 2023

In reply to by Linda

Hi my comment today is what what's your example of unclaimed funds for an example say you had unclaimed funds shouldn't you be able to get your unclaimed funds or is it something that I don't know about because I'm just kind of wondering if if I got inclined if the unclaimed if you had any claimed funds shouldn't that be your unclaimed fans I just don't get it how can they not give it to you and write you a check for it instead of someone else getting the unclaimed money

Linda Miller
August 07, 2023

In reply to by Linda

I'm not no lawyer or I'm not smart but I am smart about some things I know that's unclaimed money and that money was unclaimed because it's my money and I know that there's plenty of it to go around as far as that would have went but how can you put clay my phone somebody else taking my money when I've been asking for my unclaimed money for over a year now through unclaimed which you know I think it's like part of you and they would even give me an answer back so it doesn't really matter if you win or if you lose it's the way you play the game but I like to win and I'm sure you do too but if that's the way it went down there's really nothing to anybody can say about my money cuz my money is my money if I want to give it away I want to throw it away if I want to donate it if I want to burn it I want to pass it out down the streets if I want to buy a brand new truck or if I want to give it to PCH to donate it to stop scammers and people who takes off of other people that can't have their self anyway thank you for letting me share

Anthony Moore
June 28, 2023

I spent eight nine hours a day on that Publishers Clearing House you don't put it in stuff like that and there's plenty other ones that are the same way I mean I am out of town anymore that are actually true yet they make money after order you know play a game make money they all lie not one of them is ever paid me a dime they said they would and Google says oh we're not a part of it but how about the 150 Grand that Google made me go through them it made a test yet but they wouldn't pay me I want my $150,000 you know I spent like you know 3,000 hours and you know and then they just tell you all yeah was energy and never comes

Steve Wysocky
July 03, 2023

In reply to by Anthony Moore

Since the late 1970s I’ve been a PCH contestant/buyer. and I agree with you Anthony Moore. You would think after 45 years of buying products and playing all their scratch off games that I would at least $10. I Never won one red penny. It’s Extremely aggravating going through all that red tape just have to scroll through more and more sales pitches just to put in one entry. Just last night June 30 they said the deadline is tonight. This morning July 1 I get the same emails. So What they’re telling me is they give out millions of dollars on a monthly basis if not every minute of the day it’s so confusing and yeah after 45 years I’ve known nobody in my life that is actually won Anything from this company

Judy Lynn Sullivan
October 10, 2023

In reply to by Steve Wysocky

My friends mother won in the mid sixties. She won a trip to Hawaii, a washer & dryer, a car & some cash. Well my friend (her daughter) got the car. I've been playing since the late 70's & the only thing I ever won was a check for $5.00 & another one a couple mos. after that for $29.00. It's probably $ that I over pd. them buying items, but here I sit still playing & having hopes & dreams of becoming the next winner & what I was going to do w/the $$$...In the 90's I told my boyfriend that if PCH should come while I'm at work to send them to my job...Good luck everyone 👍🙏

Jeanette King
June 28, 2023

I have received numerous calls/messages from scammers acting as PCH to tell me I won the Grand Prize. They are foreigners and I never speak to them but I know they can be very convincing until they ask you to send "gift cards." It's distressing to hear PCH themselves have been deceiving people.

Linda Smith
June 28, 2023

I complained about PCH a few years ago with FTC. They pressure a person to buy stupid items,making the person believe they're upping their chance's of winning.
They're crooked and still using the same technique's via mail,email.

Janet M Redman
June 28, 2023

You are so right that's exactly what PCH does. Tells people your chances are better if you buy something. I learned from all these years buying from PCH that this is not true at all.

D Rolf
June 28, 2023

You said... "As part of a settlement, PCH agreed to pay $18.5 million, among other things."

Please don't make the 18.5 million a penalty given to the government!

Require PCH to individually Refund all money scammed out of people. That means find them and make sure they gat a full refund. And the customers should not have to return the product!

PCH's high profile spokeman should apologise to those he helped dupe.

FTC Staff
June 28, 2023

In reply to by D Rolf

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.

David Demaree
June 29, 2023

In reply to by FTC Staff

Hi, what if I participated over several years on PCH website and I have moved, how would FTC find me.

Marion Merwin
July 03, 2023

In reply to by David Demaree

Many purchases and disappoints. Any way to get refunded for any of it?

Ruth Emery
September 05, 2023

In reply to by Marion Merwin

had a friend who passed away late in 2022. I had been helping her with chores etc. When it was time to clean out her home there was boxes and boxes of purchases from PCH and some were never even opened. Purses, Jewelry, home products . She had been buying for years and never won a dang thing. So sad. She believed she was going to win and help out family. I guess somehow it is legal for PCH to operate in that way but the odds are not in your favor. A form of a Ponzi Scheme .
Most of that stuff went to Goodwill or thrown in trash as her family didn't want to deal with it,

George Jacobus
June 29, 2023

In reply to by FTC Staff

Any Idea as to When the CONsumer Refunds will bee Sent out...?!? Curious People who have been involved and Bought Items from PCH would Really Like to know...!!! Thanks, Have a Good Day and May GOD Bless You and

Rose Branda
June 29, 2023

In reply to by FTC Staff

I have been. PCH Customer forever and spent a lot of time on ordering and spending money but never winning. How do it get into the lawsuit?

Tasha Goulet
June 29, 2023

In reply to by FTC Staff

How do you file a claim because the same thing happen to me and wasn't informed to file a claim

June 30, 2023

In reply to by FTC Staff

It says it will also refund those wo spent their time on there, I wonder how much

June 30, 2023

In reply to by FTC Staff

I would like to be part of that.which does not sound like much. I’m sure millions of people have been scammed.and they are relentless. Harass with letters and flood your mailbox the more you order the more they want you to buy. Like ooh gotcha- she’s a live one… keep pressuring and luring her in…”

Judy McCurdy
July 03, 2023

In reply to by FTC Staff

WHICH Consumers will receive refunds? Many of people spent money on postage to enter, and some made purchases. How do they get something back for that???

Carolyn Morgan
July 03, 2023

In reply to by FTC Staff

When can we expect to see a refund of our money we spent over the years??I have been buying and dealing with PCH for more than 20 years.

July 03, 2023

In reply to by D Rolf

Oh please. Should pay anything. They say it over and over buying will not increase chances of winning.

Richard Lee
July 19, 2023

In reply to by Tammy

PCH always said , purchase will not increase chances of winning !

Judy Odom
July 03, 2023

In reply to by D Rolf

I agree with you to pay the customers what they lost.I wanted to believe it was true but I knew it wasn't I've been submitting Sweepstakes entrances since 1992 and didn't hear anything til ntil someone told me I won the big prize.