Crime Prevention

Prize Offers Don’t Pay

You just sit down for a quiet dinner with your family when the telephone rings. The caller says in a loud and excited voice, "Congratulations, you have just won a free vacation to the Bahamas. Doesn’t that sound great? All we need is a credit card verification number and a small handling fee, then the vacation is yours!"

Sound familiar? Wisconsin residents have been bombarded with similar unsolicited prize offers for many years. But, the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department wants you to know that it is the consumer who ends up paying several hundred dollars for a prize that is either nonexistent or of little value.

Always Extra Costs

Prize offers and sweepstakes that come in the mail, over the phone or even through the internet trick you into thinking they are legitimate. Attention-getting gimmicks and rehearsed telemarketing scripts are often used. No matter how they are packaged, the offers end up costing you money.

Some promotions use 900 numbers, which result in automatic charges on your phone bill. Others use toll-free phone numbers, but after making the "free" call, consumers find they must pay claim fees, shipping costs or buy merchandise in order to be eligible.

Law Protects Consumers

Under Wisconsin law, solicitors may not request or accept any payment for prize promotions before they provide you with a written prize notice. The written notice must have:

  • Any limitations, restrictions or conditions
  • Any requirement to attend a sales presentation
  • Any shipping and handling fees or other charges to be paid
  • The name and address of the solicitor and the sponsor
  • The odds of receiving each prize
  • The verifiable retail value of each prize

Review the written notice carefully - does it cost more to get the prize than it is actually worth? Pay close attention to the odds. Often, everyone who enters the promotion will receive one prize - usually something of very little value.

Use Caution

Everyone wants to be a winner, but remember, if you have to pay to win a prize it isn’t much of a prize. Never spend more than you can afford to lose.

This information is brought to you by the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department. If you have questions, please contact the Sheriff’s Department by calling 262-605-5100.