Dear New Yorker:

"Congratulations!" "You're a Winner!" "You Have Been Specially Selected!"

If you are receiving mail that makes these claims, watch out! New Yorkers receive millions of sweepstakes notices every year. These sweep-stakes and prize promotions are a very common marketing tool used to sell such items as magazine subscriptions.

Unfortunately, these sweepstakes usually leave behind dashed hopes, broken promises and sometimes costly and always unnecessary purchases.

It is a common mistake that people believe their chances of winning a sweepstakes will increase with the purchase of more promotional items or merchandise. THIS IS NOT TRUE!

If you are notified by mail or telephone that you've won a major prize, remember the old saying, "If it seems to good to be true, it probably is!"

If you are interested in finding out more about sweepstakes, you can call or write to at:

Office of the New York Attorney General
The State Capitol 
Albany, New York 12224 

No Purchase Necessary! It is illegal for a sweepstakes to require you buy a product or make a donation.

Be Wary of Claims of Huge Cash Awards and Prizes -- If it looks to good too be true, it probably is too good to be true

Don't be Swayed by Celebrities. -- They are paid to appear and they don't guarantee a sweepstakes is reputable.

Be Cautious: -- By participating in a sweepstakes, your name, address, and phone number might be sold to other solicitors

Never -- give away your credit card, bank account or social security numbers on entry forms.

Completely Avoid -- any prize award that requires you first send money to cover taxes and other costs before the prize can be shipped to you. It probably is a scam!

Be Skeptical --of letters and post cards claiming to be "official" or "urgent." If the envelope is sent "bulk rate" or costs less than 33 cents to send, you can certainly bet that thousands of people are receiving the same notice.