The following is a guest post. The rules listed below are not necessarily the same as on Makobi Scribe. You can read the rules for each sweepstakes on the Giveaway Tools Widget as they pertain to the sweepstakes in the post.

Article by Stefanie Hamilton, who blogs at www.sweepstakesfanatics.com and can be found entering premium sweepstakes and blog giveaways after her husband and two kids have turned in for the night.

So you’ve entered a sweepstakes but failed to follow the rules correctly because you didn’t read the fine print.  Worst case scenario?  You win, but you are disqualified.  Your day would go from the best to the worst in five seconds flat.  Everyone wants to have fun entering contests, and it only takes a little extra time to make sure you do it right!  To help you better understand the rules surrounding sweepstakes, we’ve prepared this guide with some common sweepstakes rules and their meanings:

1. Eligibility

The rules say: “Open only to legal residents of the fifty (50) United States and the District of Columbia who are at least Eighteen (18) years old at the time of entry. Employees of [sweepstakes sponsor] and their parent and affiliate companies as well as the immediate family (spouse, parents, siblings and children) and household members of each such employee are not eligible.”

What it means:  Sweepstakes are rarely open worldwide, and it is a waste of your time to enter a giveaway that is not open to you.  Some sweepstakes limit their geographical eligibility even further, by requiring that you live in a specific state or region of the country.  Additionally, the vast majority of sweepstakes require you to be at least 18 years old, because the information collected on the entry form is treated differently for minors.  Finally, the sweepstakes sponsor is serious about conflicts of interest that might taint the integrity of the giveaway, which is why no one related to or living in the same household as the sponsor’s employee can enter.  That way, no one can complain that a sweepstakes was “fixed”.

2. Entry limits

The rules say:  “Limit one entry per person”, “limit one entry per household”, “limit one entry per email address”, or “limit one entry per person/email address/household”.

What it means:  It is very tempting to submit a whole lot of sweepstakes entries for every contest, rationalizing that the more entries you have, the higher your odds of winning.  However, you will be disqualified very quickly if you don’t follow the sponsor’s entry limits. “One entry per email address” is the most lenient of limits, meaning that you can submit an entry for every email address you have.  “One entry per household” means that among all of the people sharing one address, only one can enter.  “One entry per person” means that even if you have different email addresses, use your middle name, or have a vacation home, you can only enter once.  “One entry per person/email address/household” is a little confusing, but it means you can only enter once, your email can only be used once, and that only one person from each household can enter.  This is the most restrictive of entry limits.

3. Winner’s affidavit

The rules say:  “If a potential winner of any prize cannot be contacted, fails to sign and return the Declaration of Compliance, Liability, and Publicity Release, or provide any other requested information, within the required time period, or the prize is returned as undeliverable, the potential winner forfeits his/her prize.”

What it means:  If you are lucky enough to win a prize, especially a large one, the sweepstakes sponsor will require you to sign an affidavit stating that the information you provided on the entry is correct, that you agree to the rules of the sweepstakes, that the sponsor can use your name for publicity purposes, and that you don’t work for the sponsor or judging agency.  Receiving and returning this affidavit is the key to getting your prize; therefore, if you use fake information on the entry form, you won’t receive the affidavit!

4. Financial consequences of winning

The rules say:  “Winners are responsible for all taxes and fees associated with prize receipt and/or use.”

What it means:  This is the downside to winning a sweepstakes.  You are responsible for paying applicable taxes on the winnings for any prize valued at over $600, as well as any fees which might arise, such a registration fee if you win a car.  The rules prohibit you from going back to the sweepstakes sponsor to complain about these financial consequences, and the sponsor is not responsible for them.

5. Publicity

The rules say:  “Except where prohibited, participation in the Sweepstakes constitutes each winner’s consent to Sponsor’s and its agents’ use of winner’s name, likeness, photograph, voice, opinions and/or hometown and state for promotional purposes in any media, worldwide, without further payment or consideration.”

What it means:  In exchange for giving you a prize, the sponsor gets to use your information publicly forever.  Now, most people would not hesitate to trade their information for a big money prize, but it is something to think about if you don’t want that kind of attention.