Help pack a million meals for struggling seniors on 9-11. Volunteer today

Scam Alert

Avoiding Sweepstakes Scams

9 tips to help you play it safe, examine the fine print and avoid fraud

4. Check the reputation and any complaints filed against the contest organizer with the Better Business Bureau and/or your state attorney general or state consumer protection office.

5. In a skill contest, gauge the difficulty. If it seems too easy, the hard truth is that it's likely a scam.

6. Told you're "lucky" or "guaranteed" to win something? Those words are usually illegal. So is, typically, the use of simulated checks or items of value unless they bear the words "SPECIMEN" or "NON-NEGOTIABLE."

7. Think twice about entry forms mailed by bulk rate. You typically have a needle-in-a-haystack chance of winning anything significant in mass mailings.

8. Don't call a provided phone number for contest details unless you've checked the contest's authenticity with an online search. Avoid any numbers with a 900 area code, which generate high per-minute charges. But be aware that some conning contests have you call toll-free 800 numbers, where you're then told to call a 900 number.

Still others may provide area codes that seem to be domestic American codes but in fact are for foreign countries, meaning you'll run up high long-distance charges. You can check a code's location by typing it and the words "area code" into an Internet search engine.

9. Avoid email or online contest entries unless they're at a trusted company website. Signing up at a public location or event can risk identity theft or your contact information being sold to telemarketers.

Sid Kirchheimer is the author of Scam-Proof Your Life, published by AARP Books/Sterling.

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts


Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Video Extra

U.S. consumers lose billions of dollars each year to scam artists. Author and veteran fraud-fighter Doug Shadel offers practical advice for consumers who want to protect their money as well as the financial assets of their parents and families.


Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.


The Cheap Life

Jeff Yeager Cheap Life Ultimate Cheapskate AARP YouTube web series save money

Catch the latest episode of The Cheap Life starring Jeff Yeager, AARP's Ultimate Cheapskate. Watch

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Member Benefits HomeServe

Members can protect their homes with comprehensive repair plans from HomeServe.

AARP Credit card from Chase

Members can get cash back rewards on purchases with the AARP® Credit Card from Chase.

Woman holding smartphone in city, Google map tool

Members can find discounts on the go via the AARP® Member Advantages Offer Finder app.

Member Benefits

Join or renew today! AARP members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.

Rewards for Good

Your Points Balance:

Learn More

Earn points for completing free online activities designed to enrich your life.

Find more ways to earn points

Redeem your points to save on merchandise, travel, and more.

Find more ways to redeem points


Advance your skills. Transform your career.

Explore your learning possibilities.