Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions about PCH Sweepstakes

Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes are among the most famous and most dreamed-about sweepstakes in America — and that means that you might have a lot of questions about them. Are PCH sweepstakes scams? How will you know if you win? What happens if the Prize Patrol knocks on your door and you're not home?

Learn the answers to these and other important questions here. And, when you're ready to enter, check out the latest Publishers Clearing House SuperPrize Giveaway.

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Are Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes Scams?

Man receiving one billion dollar check, interviewed by television crew
Stephen Stickler / Getty Images

Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes aren't scams. They really do award amazing prizes to lucky winners on a regular basis.

However, the chances of becoming one of those winners are extremely small. The estimated odds of winning a recent $10 million sweepstakes were 505,000,000 to one. Yep, those are odds of over half a billion against you.

For that reason, you should consider how much time to spend on PCH sweepstakes. If you want to drop in a few entries, great. That brings your chances of winning from "impossible" to "extremely unlikely" — and whoever does win will have had extremely unlikely odds, too.

But for more realistic chances of winning, you should spend the bulk of your time entering other sweepstakes. You might enjoy the ones from the Big Sweepstakes, Lots of Prizes, or Instant Win Sweepstakes lists, for example.

Remember, too, that PCH has come under scrutiny in the past for advertising that makes it sound too much like you've won when you haven't. Read the fine print carefully!

For more information, see Are Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes Scams?

Remember, just because PCH sweepstakes are legit doesn't mean that there aren't plenty of scams floating around out there. Scammers misuse the PCH name to trick people into handing over money all the time. To learn how to tell the difference between legit wins and PCH scams, read Did I Really Win from PCH?

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Will I Receive Spam from Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes?

Young businesswoman at office desk with pile of spam envelopes
Are You Worried About Receiving Spam When You Enter PCH Sweepstakes?. Tim Robberts / Getty Images

Publishers Clearing House does not spam entrants, nor do they share the personal information of the people who enter their sweepstakes with other companies without permission. PCH abides by CAN-SPAM laws, and campaigns to raise the bar in the email marketing industry.

That said, while you won't be spammed by definition, many people receive a lot of mail and/or email after entering Publishers Clearing House's sweepstakes.

PCH uses their giveaways as marketing tools, and their sweepstakes are a primary way to bring in new customers. When you enter online, be prepared to face a tedious multi-page submission process with the option to sign up for a variety of offers and advertisements. Be sure to take your time and only agree to the offers you really want — if any.

Publishers Clearing House's privacy policy indicates that your name will be added to mailing lists when you register, including opportunities to return and enter again for more chances to win. If you want to change your mailing preferences, see How to Unsubscribe from Publishers Clearing House's Mailing Lists.

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Will I Win More If I Buy From Publishers Clearing House?

Image of Money Exchanging Hands
You Never Have to Pay to Enter Legit Sweepstakes. Image (c) Jamie Grill/Getty Images

No. Publishers Clearing House has built its entire business model around monetizing sweepstakes, but you never, ever need to buy anything to win. Making a purchase will not improve your chances of winning.

Over the years, PCH has faced legal action for not making this clear to its entrants. Many states sued Publishers Clearing House for misleading advertising, and the company paid a multi-million dollar settlement, much of which was returned to people who had been misled when they entered PCH sweepstakes.

By the terms of the settlement, PCH sweepstakes must include fine print to ensure that recipients of their mailings understand their odds and the reality that winning a SuperPrize Jackpot is a long shot. They are also prohibited from using language in their mailings that makes people believe they're closer to winning than they actually are.

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I Received a Letter that Says I Might Be a PCH Winner. Is It Real?

Women Collecting Mail
Be Wary of Letters Announcing You're a PCH Winner. Image (c) Image Source / Getty Images

PCH does not notify its winners by email or by regular postal mail. If you receive a letter stating otherwise, it's either a scam or an opportunity to enter to win.

Read the fine print of the letter carefully. If the letter is from Publishers Clearing House, it will usually say something like, 'If you enter this giveaway and your name is drawn, you might be a winner.'

No winner is drawn until the sweepstakes expires. That means, if they're inviting you to enter the giveaway, you have the same (very long) odds as everyone else, no matter what the big print on the envelope says. In most cases, these letters are just enticements to enter.

One thing that PCH sometimes does to encourage entry is to tell you that someone with your initials or in your area will win. Well, it's not the SuperPrize Jackpot they mean when they write that. See Will Someone With My Initials Really Win the PCH Jackpot? for more details.

Of course, you may also be receiving mails from a con artist who is simply stealing PCH's name for a scam. See How to Recognize PCH Scams for information about how to tell the difference between a real win notice and a Publishers Clearing House scam.

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PCH Is Asking for Money Before I Receive My Prize. Is It Legit?

Woman Being Asked to Pay Over the Phone
Never Pay to Receive a Prize!. Image (c) Alexandra Iakovleva / Getty Images

While Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes are not actually scams, many sweepstakes scammers pretend to be from PCH to convince people to part with their money. There are two very important things to remember about entering PCH sweepstakes:

  1. PCH does not notify winners by telephone.
  2. You NEVER have to pay to receive your prize.

The warning signs of sweepstakes scams hold true for Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes, as well as giveaways from other companies.

If you're uncertain about whether a PCH win notification is legitimate, you can contact PCH directly and toll-free at 1-877-3SWEEPS (1-877-379-3377) Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. They will verify whether you have really won or not.

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How Are Publishers Clearing House Winners Notified?

Janice Ryan Hands Over a Winning Check as Part of the PCH Prize Patrol.
Janice Ryan Hands Over a Winning Check as Part of the PCH Prize Patrol. Image © Publisher's Clearing House, Used with Permission

Publishers Clearing House notifies their big winners either by certified mail or by having the PCH Prize Patrol show up at the winner's doorstep.

PCH does not notify big winners by telephone, email, or bulk mail. Be very careful not to confuse a legitimate PCH win with a scam.

PCH also gives away smaller prizes. You may be notified instantly if you win a gift card from PCH Search and Win, for example. In those cases, use the tips in the article, How to Research a Prize Win, to decide whether your win is legit.

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How Does Publishers Clearing House Draw Its Winners?

Image of a Bingo Cage, Like Those Used in PCH Prize Drawings
PCH Uses Bingo Cages to Draw Its Winners. Image (c) JackValley / Getty Imaages

 Publishers Clearing House winners are drawn through a carefully-monitored process that ensures that each entry has an equal chance of winning.

For the SuperPrize drawings, a random number is chosen to win the SuperPrize (which could be cash every week for life or millions of dollars awarded at once). Each chance to enter to win carries with it a number. If the entry with the winning number is made by an eligible entrant within the entry period, a lucky PCH winner will receive the SuperPrize.

If the winning number was not returned, or if the entrant is disqualified for any reason, PCH draws a number at random from among all of the eligible entries. That winner will then receive a consolation prize of a million dollars.

PCH winners of other prizes are either drawn randomly or awarded instantly for being the first eligible person to enter after a randomly-drawn winning time.

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Does Ed McMahon Bring Prizes to Publishers Clearing House Winners?

Photo of Ed McMahon
Ed McMahon and His Association with PCH. Image (c) Matthew Simmons / Contributor / Getty Images

No. For one thing, Ed McMahon passed away on June 23, 2009. But he never would have brought a prize to a Publishers Clearing House winner, because because Ed McMahon actually worked for PCH competitor, American Family Publishers.

American Family Publishers was a competitor of Publishers Clearing House. They both sold magazine subscriptions, and they both held huge sweepstakes, but they were two separate companies. Ed McMahon was never involved with Publishers Clearing House.

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What If I'm Not Home When the Prize Patrol Arrives?

Image of a Front Door
What Happens if PCH Knocks But No One's Home. Image (c) ChuckCollier / Getty Images

Some people worry that if they win a SuperPrize but aren't home when the Prize Patrol arrives, they will miss out on their prize. But that's one thing you don't have to worry about.

The Prize Patrol will go out of their way to find winners, even when they're not at home. The Prize Patrol has found people in the hospital, at work, after they've moved — they've even surprised a winner on an airplane! So don't worry about sitting around at home waiting for the Prize Patrol. If you've won, they'll find you.

For more information, see Behind the Scenes with the PCH Prize Patrol.

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Is a Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes Running Right Now?

Image of a Woman Excited about Winning a Prize on
Get the Chance to Be a Winner with Image (c) Dan Dalton / Getty Images

PCH runs a large number of different giveaways at any given time, with prizes ranging from small gift cards and cash prizes to huge, multi-million dollar giveaways and everything in between.

The most famous of these is the PCH SuperPrize Giveaway, which offers enormous prizes like cash every week for life (or even beyond) or an alternate, million-dollar prize.

When one SuperPrize giveaway ends, a new one usually starts again almost immediately. See Why Don't PCH Sweepstakes Ever Seem to End? for more information on how the giveaways work.

If you'd like other chances to win huge prizes, visit the Mega Sweepstakes List.

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Where Can I Find a List of Publishers Clearing House Winners?

PCH Winner Leroy Faulks and the PCH Prize Patrol
Want to Become One of PCH's SuperPrize Winners? Here's How. Image (c) Publishers Clearing House

Some people fear that PCH prizes aren't really rewarded because they don't hear about the winners. However, PCH publishes the news about their big winners on a regular basis. For winners from 1986 to the present, visit the Winner's Circle.

If you'd prefer to see the winning moments, visit PCH's YouTube channel. They have a Meet PCH Winners section that has tons of videos of the Prize Patrol awarding big prizes.

If you'd like to learn a little more about the winning experience, check out my interview with 2008 SuperPrize winner ​Natalie Bostelman. 

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What Do I Do to Stop Receiving PCH Mailings?

Image of a Hand Saying Stop
Here's What to Do If You Need PCH Mailings to Stop. Image (c) Dimitri Otis / Getty Images

If you or a relative are receiving too much mail from PCH, contact their customer service department at 1-877-3SWEEPS (1-877-379-3377) Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The customer service department can reduce the number of mailings you receive, or they can remove your name from their mailing list altogether.

For more information, see How to Contact Publishers Clearing House.

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How Can I Contact Publishers Clearing House?

Representation of Phone, Email, Etc.
Want to Get in Touch with PCH? Here's How. Image (c) anzlyldrm / DigitalVision Vectors / Getty Images

If you'd like to verify a prize win, unsubscribe from Publishers Clearing House's mailing lists, check the status of an order, or get other information directly from the source, see my article on How to Contact PCH. Note that this site is not affiliated with Publishers Clearing House.