catching up is hard to do

There’s an interesting if short thread over in the Flyer Talk Free Travel Contests and Sweepstakes Forum about the safety of the personal information we are asked to include when we enter online sweeps. It’s an absolutely valid question. I can’t tell you how many people have told me they are nervous that entering online sweeps is going to trigger an avalanche of spam or, worse still, that they’re going to become unwitting accomplices to acts of identity theft. Their own. While there is the occasional fraudulent sweeps, the vast majority are legit. The U.S. sweeps universe is intensely regulated.

That’s not to say that a bum one can’t slip through the cracks. I generally go for well-known sponsors, since a pretender hiding behind a recognizable name would almost certainly be unmasked in a New York minute. As for spam, I have not seen an uptick in sweeps-traceable email since I started entering online sweeps in March 2006. Many sweeps do involve subscribing to newsletters. That should be clear on the entry form. You should always be able check that you do not want to receive it.

That said, I object strenuously to sponsors asking for entrants’ Date of Birth. (Though not enough to boycott them!) I think should be prohibited, since the D.O.B. is key data for identity thievary. Unless someone from marketing is planning on sending a birthday card, the marketing folks should be able to make do with entrants’ age range.

I thought this response from Flyingmama, one of FT’s sweepstakes forum’s most active posters, summed up travel-sweepstaking to a T: There's an element of chance to virtually everything in life, and with a little common sense you can minimize the risks with sweepstakes - especially since the payoff can be so great. Without sweepstakes wins I would never have traveled to Las Vegas, Bermuda and the La Costa resort, or stocked my "gift" cabinet with iPods, toys and games to give away at Christmas. It is a fun, albeit frequently frustrating, hobby as long as you view it as just that - a hobby and don't take it too seriously.

Not too seriously, that's the ticket to rewarding sweepstaking. Now that I am through with school (more or less), I have lots of clicking and entering to do! So many sweeps, so little time. This afternoon I entered a sweeps sponsored by Chivas. (It would have been more fitting if I’d this one entered yesterday, because it was one of those days where I felt like I could have used a stiff drink. Forunately today is much, much better.) The lucky winner of this one – and Chivas is putting odds at 1 in 100,000, which seems low – gets to select among the following prizes: a) Amalfi Coast, Italy – trip includes a scooter ride along the coast; or b) Kenya/Tanzania, Africa – trip includes a big game photo safari and a ride on hot air balloon; or c) Cairns, Australia – trip includes a scuba dive in the Great Barrier Reef; or d) St. James, Barbados – trip includes an exclusive Caribbean spa experience.

If I won, it would be a toss between Kenya/Tanzania and Australia.

To enter, click HERE. The sweeps closes June 30.

The Ineligibles: Void in California and Utah. Tennessee residents may not enter Sweepstakes via the internet. Residents of Tennessee can enter by mail. See Official Rules for details.

Next Week: Spa-di-da time! Sweeps to the Red Mountain Spa in Utah, Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Gainey Ranch, and more!