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Delivering Trust

Delivering Trust - The Beacon


By: Michael

Delivering Trust

Your BBB is always looking for new resources to help consumers better inform themselves.

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service®, the U.S. Postal Service®, and the Direct Marketing Association have developed a website for you to use as a guide when responding to sweepstakes offers and for recognizing the difference among legitimate sweepstakes, prize promotions and fraudulent promotions. provides tips on how families can spot signs that a loved one has fallen victim to mail fraud, and offers ways to stop it. Below are a few things you can learn more about on this site:

No Purchase Necessary means you never have to purchase an item or pay a fee to enter and win a sweepstakes. You always have an equal chance of winning whether or not you order.

The Deceptive Mail Prevention and Enforcement Act grants increased powers to the U.S. Postal Service® to better protect consumers against deceptive mailings featuring games of chance, sweepstakes, skill contests, and facsimile checks. The law applies to sweepstakes sent through the U.S. Mail ® , not to sweepstakes using the Internet or telephone, unless the mail is involved in some way.

Disclosures must be “readily noticeable, readable, and understandable” by the target audience.

The act strictly prohibits false representations in sweepstakes promotions:

That the recipient is a winner, unless that person has actually won a prize.

That the recipient must order to enter.

That an entry must be sent in with payment for a previous purchase.

That the recipient must make a purchase in order to receive future sweepstakes mailings.

A fake check if it does not include a statement on it that it is non-negotiable and has no cash value.

Any seal, name, or term that implies a federal government connection, approval, or endorsement.

Consumers have the right to stop receiving sweepstakes mailings, and promoters must give consumers a reasonable way to request removal of their names from mailing lists. Marketers must maintain a record of all “stop mail” requests and suppress the names for 5 years. The requests must come in writing, from either an individual, or from an individual’s guardian or conservator.

The U.S. Postal Service® can stop mailings from being delivered, and marketers are subject to substantial penalties for noncompliance with the law, including the failure to set up a reasonable system to prevent unwanted mailings.

By definition, a sweepstakes is an advertising or promotional device by which items of value (prizes) are awarded to participating consumers by chance, with no purchase or entry fee required to win.

What is a Lottery?

Unlike a sweepstakes, a lottery is a promotional device by which items of value (prizes) are awarded to members of the public by chance, but which requires some form of payment to participate. Lotteries are illegal, except when conducted by states and certain exempt charitable organizations. If you believe you have received a solicitation in the guise of a sweepstakes which is an illegal lottery, you should contact your local Post Office™ or State Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Office.

What is a Skill Contest?

Skill contests are different from sweepstakes offers. In a skill contest, the winner is determined by skill — not chance — and an entry fee or purchase may be required.

There are many legitimate skill contests. For example, in a skill contest you may write a winning jingle, solve a puzzle, or answer a question correctly. Your skill or knowledge is what wins the contest, not chance. Know how the contest works, what the prizes are, and what the fees are before paying anything to the company.

What is a Premium Offer?

Premiums are gifts that companies make available to all recipients who respond according to the company’s instructions — for example, a travel bag received with a new magazine subscription. When everyone who responds to the offer receives the same gift item, without any element of chance, the offer is not a sweepstakes.

Separate “yes” and “no” response envelopes are sometimes used to help the sponsor fulfill orders promptly to ensure customer satisfaction. The “no” responses receive equal treatment in the sweepstakes, but do not require order processing.

Advertised prizes should be awarded unless otherwise stated in the rules.

Check official rules to see if all prizes are guaranteed to be awarded.

Most sponsors will provide a list of all prize winners if you are interested in receiving this information.

Visit to learn more.

To report questionable mailings, call 877-876-2455 or Click Here to File a Postal Complaint.

Visit your BBB where you can Start With Trust®.

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Michael is our Business Information Specialist and will be writing at least one article per week for the consumer education blog. He works with accredited businesses to ensure we maintain current contact information and licensing. He is usually first to answer the phone; so odds are good you will be speaking with him when calling our office.