I keep getting email from different organizations claiming that if I join their auction I could buy an iPad for $20 or less, or even win one for the cost of entering the sweepstakes! Tempting, but do ya think it’s legit, Dave?
I got your question while I was going through my spam filtering report for the last 24 hours. For fun, here are the two spam messages I found that were in this same vein: “BREAKING NOW – iPad auctioned off for $18.23!” and “iPad Auctions $12 – WHAT A DEAL!”
I don’t have to read any further to tell you that either it’s a completely scam (which is what I’d guess) or that your odds of winning with a small entry fee are tiny and without any fee at all is zero.
Let’s do the math, shall we?
The entry-level Apple iPad runs about $599 + tax + shipping. Let’s say $650. Now if you wanted to have a raffle or sweepstakes, you could theoretically tell 700 people that for a $1 entry fee they have a chance of winning a free iPad. Your net would be $700, the unit costs $650, you probably pass on the shipping costs to the winner (e.g. “You’ve won! Please send us $25 for shipping”), and you could clear $50-$75 on the transaction.
That’s not enough to be interesting, though, so perhaps we’re talking about 1000 entrants? Or, better, it’s a $5 entry fee and there are only 200 people in the running. 1:200 odds of winning? Not too bad, I suppose, and $5 for an iPad would be sweet, sweet deal. Oh, and the person organizing it? They’d clear $450 or so for each iPad raffle they held.
My guess is that somehow you, as someone not associated or affiliated with the sweepstakes organizer, would never win. Think about the profit margin now, when the organizer’s girlfriend “wins” the raffle and not only does he pay for her iPad (massive bonus points and one heck of a present!) but he also drops an additional $500 in the bank.
So the entry-fee certainly seems like a guaranteed scam, even if they do give away an iPad at the end of the sweepstakes. It’s online and an auction? No, it’s probably not. That’s a sham set up for you to pay your “registration fee”. Enough people pay the fee and “Susie” wins again. Tricky, eh?
If it were a giveaway without any fee, you then have to ask the question “what’s in it for them?” No organization is going to give away a $500 product. I’d be even more suspicious of them, and very reticent about sharing any personal information. Because here’s the savvy trick: You want to collect personally identifiable information to data mine for identity thieves? Run a giveaway and ask for lots of info from entrants.
Suddenly none of this sounds so good, does it?
Good. Run away from these deals. None of them are legit, none of them are going to end well for you. If your local church or girl scout troop is hosting a raffle, that’s worth supporting. If it’s some random group online? Yeah, that’s why you have that big “delete” button in your email program. Use it. And be safe out there.