Why Sweepstakes Sponsors Need Social Security Numbers From Winners

Is it Safe to Put Your SS# on an Affidavit?

Protect Your Social Security Number
Should You Really Give Your Social to a Sweepstakes Sponsor?. Kameleon007 / Getty Images

So you've won a giveaway. You've verified that the win is legit and you're reading through the paperwork you have to return. Everything looks fine. until you come to a section that asks for your social security number.

You've always heard that you should keep your SS# secure and that it can be misused for identity theft. Is it okay to give your social security number to sweepstakes sponsors? Or are you a target of a sweepstakes scam?

The Importance of Safeguarding Your Social Security Number

As you already know, your social security number is not something to share lightly. In the wrong hands, it can lead to identity theft, credit damage, and other financial problems. The social security administration recommends that you don't carry your social security card in your wallet or purse and that you don't give it out unnecessarily.

So does that mean that you should toss out that prize notification or tell the sponsor you won't give it to them?

No. Sweepstakes sponsors have a legitimate reason for asking for your social security number. The request is not a sign that you're being scammed.

Why Sweepstakes Sponsors Need Social Security Numbers From Their Winners

There's an important reason why sweepstakes sponsors need your social security number: taxes.

Sweepstakes sponsors are required to report who won their prizes to the IRS if the value of the prize is $600 or more. In order to be sure that the win is attributed to the right person, the sponsor needs to include your social security number on the forms that they send to the IRS. 

To ensure that taxes are assigned fairly, they ask their potential winners for their social security numbers. In fact, if you've won a prize worth $600 or more and you are not asked for a social security number, that could indicate you're being scammed.

In most cases, your only options are to return the affidavit with your social security number on it or decline the prize.

But what if your prize is worth less than $600? Does that mean that you won't need to return an affidavit or provide your social?

Unfortunately, no. While sponsors are required to report prizes worth $600 or more, they are able to report prizes of any value. And for tax purposes, they often do. Sweepers have had to return notarized affidavits with social security numbers for promotional t-shirts and $10 gift cards.

As a reminder, winners are required to report all their prizes on their own sweepstakes taxes. The prizes you report should match or exceed those reported by the sponsors.

How to Protect Your Social Security Number When You Enter Sweepstakes

Even though you might need to provide your social security number when you win prizes, you shouldn't throw caution to the wind. There are still steps you should take to protect yourself when you enter.

1. Make sure you are entering legitimate giveaways. Take steps to research the sweepstakes you enter to be sure they're on the up-and-up.

2. Provide your social security number only when you win. You should not give out this information when you enter.

3. Research your prize wins before you respond. Make sure that the company sponsoring the giveaway or a sweepstakes administrator is asking for the affidavit, not a scammer. 

4. Make sure that you're using a secure method to transmit your social security number. Postal mail should be fine, but a simple email could put your information at risk. If the sponsor is asking you to submit information through a web form, make sure the URL starts with https://.

By taking steps to protect your social security number, you can claim your legitimate prize wins without fear of identity theft and other crimes.