The Science Behind Winning Giveaways

Consider these tips on how to hit the jackpot and redeem your winnings:

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Sweepstakes are a huge industry, particularly on the Internet. Visit your favorite blogs or websites and chances are they've hosted a giveaway within the last month. From gift cards to watches and expensive electronics, companies are increasingly looking toward giveaways as a way boost their brands and get a greater share of your attention. The best part about giveaways is that everyone wins-lucky consumers score prizes and companies can boost their image and promote their product.

As a result of this explosion in giveaways and sweepstakes, there are plenty of services out there that offer services (for a fee), to help you win. Some of them provide lists of contests to enter, while others offer software that helps you enter contests more easily. Whatever the service may be, consumers don't need them to be successful-all they need are strategies that give them the greatest chance to win.

There are two key parts to making money from giveaways: winning the prizes and cashing them in. Consider these tips on how to hit the jackpot and redeem your winnings:

How to maximize your winnings. This part of the strategy is fairly simple: In order to win a lot of sweepstakes, you need to enter a lot of sweepstakes. There isn't much else you can do that will have an impact on how many items you win.

How can you enter giveaways quickly? Download a plugin for your browser that automatically fills in forms on your behalf. Many browsers have this functionality built into the browser, others rely on third-party plugins or extensions. By using such a program, you skip the most time-consuming part of the process and can spend that extra time to improve your finances in other ways.

Start collecting a list of sweepstakes sites you will hit each day. A quick search for the best sweepstakes will help you assemble your calendar and loading each one up in the morning will give you a nice list to work from. From there, click on each sweepstakes (holding the CTRL key while clicking a link will typically open it up in a new tab), let the auto-fill program take over, and sit back. You can enter a dozen sweepstakes in a few minutes if you have everything set up.

How to cash in prizes. Since winning relies on entry volume, consider entering giveaways where the prize is something you do not want. For example, a sweepstake may offer tickets to a concert of a band you wouldn't go to see even if it were free. Gift cards to stores you never shop in or aren't nearby are other common unwanted prizes. If you enter a lot of giveaways, you'll get a lot of prizes you won't want to keep.

Not sure what to do if you win? Sell or trade the prizes. If you want to sell them, turn to Craigslist or eBay for items that are not gift cards. For gift cards, the best option is to find a gift card reseller, that will happily buy your cards for somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 percent of face value.

If you wish to trade them, you may be able to turn to the sweepstakes sites that you used to find the contest in the first place. If they have forums, there will often be a board focused on selling or trading unwanted prizes. However, exercise caution when you use these boards because unlike eBay, there is little recourse if someone rips you off. Another benefit of these boards is there is typically no transaction fee.

Finally, if your prize is significant and you anticipate getting a 1099 from the contest sponsor, document the fair market value immediately so you can contest the value of the prize for tax purposes. The sponsor should send you a 1099 for the retail value, though you only owe taxes on the fair market value. If there is a discrepancy, contact the sponsor so they can amend the 1099 before they file it. If they refuse, consult a tax professional to help resolve the issue.

Giveaways won't make you rich, but with a few adjustments to your approach, you can position yourself to rake in more prizes than other participants. Plus, when you start telling your success stories, you can laugh when your friends tell you that they never thought anyone ever won those things.

Jim Wang is a budding giveaway enthusiast and sharing his thoughts (and $100) on Giveaway Jungle.