Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Patience Is Required

There are two virtues that every sweeper must have in abundance. The first is persistence, which I have written about in an earlier post. The second is patience.

I received a surprise package in the mail last Friday. Turns out that it was a prize from an Allure magazine sweep that I entered and won last August 21st, over 8 months ago! I have experienced delays in receiving prizes before, but I this was a record-setting delay.

For the last several years, Allure has held a huge giveaway in August, giving away hundreds (sometimes thousands) of beauty and fashion prizes every day. This is obviously a huge undertaking - Allure must collect all the entries and determine the winners for multiple sweeps each day, then coordinate with the product sponsors to have the prizes shipped. Prizes usually start showing up at winners' doors around the end of October, and keep arriving for the next several months. Sometimes you are notified that you have won, and sometimes the prizes just arrive - you are never sure what you have won until the Winners List is published (this year is was sent out in March). I took a look at the list when it came out, and saw that I had not received two prizes from John Frieda - the Go Blonder shown in the photo, and a hair dryer.

If you are ever in a similar situation, I recommend that you contact the sponsor company, either through email or their social media sites. After doing a little digging on their sites and checking out some sweeping forums, I saw that several other winners were already inquiring about their prizes, so I decided to wait that see if the company would respond. It seems that they have, and my second prize should be arriving later this week. My patience will be rewarded!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

How to Start Winning Sweepstakes

If you have started entering sweepstakes but are frustrated because you haven't won anything yet, I have put together a short checklist of things that you can do to improve your chances of winning:
  1. Make sure that you use Roboform or another form-filling software. It will allow you to enter sweeps more quickly, and let you enter more sweeps in the same amount of time.
  2. Prioritze your sweeps, so that you don't waste time entering for prizes that you don't want. If you have a limited amount of time, only enter the sweeps that are most important to you.
  3. Always read the rules before you enter. It will save you from entering sweeps for which you are not eligible, or that have already ended. The rules will also give you more detailed information about the prizes and their value.
  4. Use verifiable, accurate and complete information when you fill out your entry forms. This will help keep you from being disqualified, and will allow sponsors to get in touch with you if you win.
  5. Find a sweepstakes directory (or two or three!) that you like, and use it to find new sweeps more easily.
  6. Enter a variety of sweeps, including single entry, daily entry, and instant wins. In additional to national sweeps, look for local sweeps where you will have better odds.
  7. Be persistent. In order to win on a regular basis, you must enter a lot of sweeps and enter them often. If you keep entering, you will eventually win something.
  8. Be patient. It can take a long time for sweepstakes to run their course, and even longer for sponsors to select the winners and send out their prizes.
I have put a more detailed explanation about each of these points in my book Win What You Want, along with other information to get you started with sweeping. Keep entering, and good luck!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Magazine Sweepstakes

I have written about the importance of using sweepstakes directories to find new sweeps to enter. You will also want to check out the websites of the following magazines, all of which offer sweepstakes on a regular basis. Some offer one or more new sweeps every month, while others offer a daily prize. Given the number of entries these sweeps receive your chances of winning may not be great, but they are winnable - I have won prizes from all these sites. Make sure that you click where it says "if you want to enter without subscribing..." or click on "no" when it asks if you want to subscribe, or you may inadvertently sign up for the magazine. I would add these sites to your list of bookmarks - just click on the names to check out their sweepstakes pages:

Woman's World, InTouch Weekly, First For Women, and Life & Style Weekly - all of these magazines work together to run between 20-40 sweeps at all times, with new sweeps starting all the time. They are all daily entries, and they often collect entries from multiple sites for one sweep. These sweeps do not have a subscription option, so you don't have to worry about signing up by mistake. You can enter each sweep once per day per site.

Martha Stewart Living - offers daily prizes, with a different sponsor each month.

Fitness Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens, BetterRecipes, Parents, Ladies' Home Journal, and More - these Meredith Corporation magazines all offer daily sweepstakes, but they only choose one winner per day across all of their magazines. You can only enter on one site per day, so you might want to choose the one that most closely aligns with your interests and only add that site to your daily entries.

Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Lucky Magazine and Glamour - all offer new sweepstakes every month, with daily entries allowed.

Many other magazines also offer sweepstakes, though often on a less regular basis. If you visit a magazine web site, always look for a link to "Free Stuff", "Promotions", or "Sweepstakes" to see what promotions they are currently running.

Friday, April 12, 2013

How To Identify a Sweepstakes Scam


UK-THAILAND LOTTO ONLINE WINNINGS NOTIFICATION OF US$4.6M
CONGRATULATIONS FOR YOUR LONG AWAITING FUND $10.7M HAS BEEN LOADED INTO AN ATM CARD
CONGRATULATION YOUR EMAIL ID HAS WON $1,750, 000.00 (DOLLARS)IN THE LOTTO MAX LOTTERY PROMO

CONGRATULATIONS !!!Yahoo Award Notification

CONGRATULATION YOUR ATM CARD OF $11.5M USD IS READY FOR COLLECTION
Your email won the sum of £800,000.00 Pounds

These are some examples of the subject lines from scam emails that I have received over the last few months. It is not difficult to identify these emails as scams, even by reading only the subject line. I’m pretty sure that I have never entered any sweepstakes that offered a multi-million dollar prize, and I know that I haven’t entered a “UK-Thailand” lotto!  I receive several emails like this every day, usually in the middle of the night, and thankfully they mostly end up going directly to my junk email folder.
Sometimes, though, the scams are not so obvious and easy to detect. There are several things to look for when trying to figure out if a sweepstakes notification is a scam:
You don’t recognize the sweep – If the sweep doesn’t sound familiar and you don’t remember entering, be cautious. You can only win what you enter. If there are no other warning signs and the sweep sounds legitimate, you can always contact the company via phone, email or Facebook to confirm that you are a winner. But do not use any contact info in the email, as it may also be phony – look up the information online!
The email address looks suspicious – Sometimes a scam email will look like it comes from a respectable company, but if you look closely at the sender’s email address it doesn’t look legitimate. For example, one email I received said that it was from Microsoft, but the email address was ****@rediffmail.com.  Another came from a free gmail account, a good sign that it is not from a legitimate company.
They ask you for money to receive your prize – a legitimate sweepstakes will require you to send money to receive your prize. You will pay any taxes that you owe from receiving the prize directly to the IRS when you file your tax return. If they are asking for any kind of fee, handling charge or tax, whether by mail or by wire, it is definitely a scam.
They ask for your bank or credit card information – While legitimate sweepstakes may require that you fill out an affidavit asking for your Social Security number (so that they can file the proper forms with the IRS), they will never ask for your bank account or credit card information. Any cash prizes that you win will be fulfilled by sending you a check. Never provide this sensitive information! Only a scammer would ask for it.
The email is poorly written – Read the contents of the email closely. Scam emails are generally not addressed to you by name, they often contain many typos and punctuation errors, and they may contain images that try to make them look official. An email I received today had the following photos as the email header (exactly as shown!):
 
Unfortunately, if a win seems too good to be true, it generally is. It is possible to win big prizes, but they will always be from big companies, and they will send you a legitimate notification that doesn’t raise any of these red flags. If you ever have any doubt, do not be afraid to contact the sponsor and verify your win.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Winning More With Referrals

After you complete an online sweepstakes entry, you will often see an option to refer your friends. Referrals are a great way to spread the word about the sweeps you find among your friends, and often give you extra chances to win. These referrals can take several different forms, giving you:
  • one or more bonus entries for telling a friend about the sweep
  • one or more bonus entries if a friend you refer enters the sweep
  • a chance to win if they win - if they enter and win, you will both get a prize, or
  • nothing but the chance to let your friends know about the sweep!
Sometimes there is a place for you to enter your friend's name and email address at the bottom of the entry form, but usually you see the option once you have submitted your entry. You are also frequently given the chance to gain bonus entries in the sweep by tweeting a link or posting it on Facebook.

There may be a limit on the number of bonus entries you can receive, either per day or throughout the promotion. Check the official rules if it is not clear on the referral page.

The person you are referring will receive one email from the sponsor, with a link back to the entry form. Usually it will mention your name, either in the body of the email or as the sender. Make sure that your friends are interested in receiving these emails before you start referring them! If you have a group of friends that are all interested in sweeping, this is a great way to share new sweepstakes among yourselves while improving your chances to win.

If you would like to receive notices from the sweeps I enter, send me an email with your first name and email address to Sweepstercoach@gmail.com and I will add you to my list.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Just Back From A Fantastic Trip

Travel is one of the top items on my sweepstakes wish list, and I have been fortunate enough to win several nice trips over the past few years. I just got back from another great trip, this time to Miami!

  
I won this trip from the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau - it was the grand prize in their Miami Mixology Game that ran last fall. I had never been to Miami, but I fell in love with the wonderful weather and beautiful beaches.

The trip for two included airfare from American Airlines (love those direct flights from Seattle to Miami!), three nights at the Hilton Miami Downtown, and dinner at db Bistro Moderne.

We landed in Miami early in the morning, and it was a quick drive from the airport to the Hilton. The hotel is located in a great spot if you are interested in doing some sightseeing, as it is just a couple of minutes from South Beach and just on the north end of downtown Miami. It would also be very convenient as a stopover on the way to or from a cruise, as we could see the cruise ship terminal from our room. Despite the early hour, we were checked in to our Two Queen Junior Suite right away - very spacious, with a nice sitting area, desk, and outside patio. It was a corner room, so we had floor to ceiling windows on two sides.


We spend the next few days exploring the Miami area, exploring Miami Beach, Coral Gables and Key Biscayne. One morning we rented bikes (about $5 per hour) and rode around South Beach - very fun and a great way to check out the neighborhoods!

That evening we regained all of our expended calories with dinner at db Bistro Moderne, located in the JW Marriott Marquis in downtown Miami. Our prize included a three-course meal with wine pairing, and we enjoyed it from start to finish! The restaurant is beautiful and serene, with excellent service and food that was both delicious and stunningly presented. I can't imagine that there is a better restaurant in Miami.

We also spent some time visiting a local art museum, relaxing on the beach, and checking out the shops on Lincoln Road. On the last day we made a quick trip out to the Everglades for an airboat tour and a few short hikes in the national park before our 10pm flight back home.

It is because of trips like this that I love sweepstakes - getting the chance to go somewhere we have never been before, and enjoying some of the best the city has to offer. Now we can't wait to go back! A very big thank you to the Miami CVB, American Airlines, Hilton Downtown Miami and db Bistro Moderne for giving us an unforgettable spring break!